HARTFORD, CT— In yet another major legal victory for nursing home workers, U.S. District Court Judge Robert N. Chatigny (CHAT-nee) today found HealthBridge Management in civil contempt of court and ordered the New Jersey-based nursing home corporation to comply with all of the terms of a prior federal injunction.
In a conference call with attorneys for the health care workers and the nursing home company this morning, the Judge ordered HealthBridge to pay back wages and benefits, with interest, to approximately 600 nurses, aides and support staff at five Connecticut nursing homes, retroactive to February 1, 2013.
Read the Hartford Courant’s coverage of the ruling here. For a copy of Judge Chatigny’s order, click here: HealthBridge First Motion for Contempt Ruling 12-23-13.
Judge Chatigny will also impose fines on the company if it fails to comply with his order:
“Upon the failure of HealthBridge to comply with each of the paragraphs of this Order, HealthBridge shall pay [the National Labor Relations] Board $10,000, and a daily compliance fine of $500. For any subsequent violation of any provision of the 10(j) injunction, HealthBridge shall pay the Board a fine of $5,000.”
In a previous ruling issued on December 11, 2012, granting an injunction sought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against HealthBridge and five individual CT nursing homes, Judge Chatigny ordered the defendants to reinstate the previous wages, benefits and other terms of employment that had been in place under prior contracts covering more than 600 health care workers at those facilities. Nurses, aides and support staff at the facilities had participated in an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike after HealthBridge and the nursing homes unlawfully implemented unilateral changes, including eliminating pensions and instituting huge increases to the cost of health insurance, to workers’ contracts in June of 2012.
The injunction issued in December 2012 also ordered HealthBridge and the nursing homes to reinstate all of the striking workers to their former positions and schedules. After the company unsuccessfully sought a stay of that injunction, first with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and then, twice, with the U.S. Supreme Court, the company indicated it would comply with the terms of the injunction.
However, just prior to the caregivers scheduled return to work in March, 2013, the five CT nursing homes, but not HealthBridge, filed for bankruptcy in New Jersey, where HealthBridge is incorporated, seeking modifications to the contract virtually identical to the terms they had unilaterally imposed which triggered the ULP strike.
“Judge Chatigny found HealthBridge in Contempt of Court today, yet another legal victory for workers and a further sign that HealthBridge cannot get away with its unfair and illegal treatment of its employees,” said David Pickus, President of the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU. “How many more millions of taxpayers’ Medicare and Medicaid dollars will they waste on attorney’s fees to find ways to evade their legal responsibilities? How many more times does HealthBridge have to be found guilty of illegal activity, until the company decides to work with its employees to settle a fair contract? Until they do, the health and well-being of workers and their patients continues to hang in the balance.”
The Labor Board only seeks injunctive relief in the most egregious cases. In 2011, the Board filed for an injunction in fewer than 4 percent of all federal Complaints issued (see www.nlrb.gov/charges-and-complaints<http://www.nlrb.gov/charges-and-complaints>.)