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DOL releases info on back wages due LBJ employees

fili@samoanews.com

The U.S. Labor Department confirmed yesterday that LBJ Medical Center will need to pay more than $600,000 in back wages to employees who didn’t get the right over-time pay or who didn’t get the minimum wage pay.

By failing to pay the right wages, the hospital has violated the overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), according to the federal agency in a news release, which also states that the findings followed an investigation last year by its Wage and Labor Division.

This issue first became public last December when a House committee was looking into the financial conditions of the hospital, at a time when LBJ was moving towards implementing a new fee hike, which was later rescinded.

This underpayment of wages has since been raised several times in hearings by both the Senate and House but what was never firmed up by hospital officials was the total number of employees affected, the type of workers affected, and the actual money owed that the hospital agreed to pay back to workers.

DOL said the total amount to be paid back is $628,115 to 481 employees, including certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, housekeepers and food service assistants.

“Employers must properly track and pay employees for actual hours worked to ensure that they are paid the minimum and overtime wages required under the FLSA,” said Terence Trotter, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Honolulu District Office, which conducted the investigation.

“This case should put other employers on notice and encourage them to ensure that record keeping and payrolls accurately reflect hours worked so that their employees are properly compensated,” said Terrance in a DOL news release.

The Wage and Hour Division determined that the employer failed to pay employees $589,622 in overtime wages and $38,493 in minimum wages for hours worked outside of their scheduled shifts, including through meal breaks, disregarding actual start and end times recorded by a time clock.

LBJ is a semi autonomous agency of ASG and therefore minimum wage for the hospital is $4.41 for the government employee’s minimum wage scale.

The FLSA currently requires that government sector employees in American Samoa be paid at least $4.41 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

LBJ chief executive officer Mike Gerstenberger told Samoa News last December that the principle finding at LBJ was that the hospital had no policy on the calculation of overtime.

“As a result, each supervisor used his or her own best judgment; some rounded up, some rounded down; some to the nearest half-hour; some to the nearest quarter-hour, etc.,” he said and reiterated similar testimonies during Fono hearings this year.

He said the hospital, which has already started making payments to the affected employees, now has a consistent policy and all statutory supervisors have had training in how to apply the law.

He said that employees who may have been affected cover the period of Oct. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2011.

Gerstenberger told the Senate Investigative Committee two weeks ago that $800,000 needs to be paid back to the affected employees, per agreement with the Labor Department, who didn’t impose a penalty on LBJ. He said the hospital is looking at making the final payment by this summer.

The CEO didn’t immediately reply yesterday to Samoa News questions following the official statement from DOL, whose wage and hour investigation into LBJ last fall included the whole American Samoa Government. There has been no new information yet on the probe into ASG.



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