Attorney General James recovers more than $ 90,000 in restitution for nurses in Albany subjected to illegal fines by employer
Albany Med Health System agrees to reimburse employees who were
Obliged to pay illegal fees following resignation or dismissal
NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced an agreement with healthcare company Albany Med Health System (Albany Med) to illegally include a “reimbursement of expenses” clause in their health care contracts. work for nurses recruited in foreign countries. Under the agreement, Albany Med will reimburse $ 90,229 to seven former nurses who were each required to pay up to $ 20,000 if they quit or were laid off within three years of their employment. The reimbursement provision threatened nurses, most of whom were from the Philippines, with legal action and involvement of immigration authorities if they did not make the payments. Albany Med will pay workers $ 82,000 and an additional $ 8,229 in interest. In addition to removing the reimbursement provision from all employment contracts, Albany Med must notify current and former nurses of the removal of the clause and submit written reports on their compliance to the Attorney General’s Office (OAG).
“As we have seen with the COVID-19 crisis, nurses are the backbone of our healthcare system and deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity,” said Attorney General James. “By forcing its employees to choose between paying huge sums to quit their jobs, or facing immigration authorities, Albany Med has violated their rights as workers and as individuals. My office is committed to standing up for all healthcare workers and will continue to hold employers accountable for their exploitative and illegal acts. “
“After years of fighting on behalf of our immigrant members at CMA, NYSNA is delighted to see this result from Attorney General Letitia James’s office,” said NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane, IA. “We continue to be proud to stand alongside the courageous Filipino nurses who sounded the alarm bells on these coercive employment contracts. Fortunately, nurses now have a union to address these concerns and, coupled with this strong agreement from Attorney General James, nurses are confident their voices will be heard by Albany Med and New York State. NYSNA thanks Attorney General James for not dropping this case and honoring Albany Med’s COVID-19 nursing heroes with a deal that restores the respect they deserve. “
Attorney General James issued a subpoena in February 2020 after the case was referred to his office by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA). Albany Med was found guilty of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act § 1589 through its provision, which constitutes a threat of legal and financial harm serious enough “to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform work or services in order to avoid suffering such prejudice.
As of January 2011, Albany Med has collected $ 82,000 in “reimbursement fees” from former nurses for failing to meet their three-year commitment. The reimbursement provision discouraged workers from terminating their employment early, even if employment conditions were deplorable, or if they found employment with better wages or conditions elsewhere. The OAG found that this policy had been illegally enforced against seven nurses over the past 10 years, while hundreds of nurses were subjected to the illegal policy during their permanent visa recruitment process or while employed with Albany Med. .
In addition to the $ 90,000 in compensation, Albany Med agreed to additional conditions to ensure fair treatment for its workers, including:
- Remove the reimbursement clause from all current and future employment contracts;
- Inform all current and former nurses who have been parties to this agreement in the past six years that this clause has been removed and will not be applied;
- Submit an affidavit under oath to the OAG attesting that he has not collected reimbursement costs from any nurse by any means whatsoever, other than the seven nurses he has already admitted; and
- Report the requested documents and information to the OAG, in particular:
- Copies of the draft opinions that will be sent to all current and former nurses;
- Lists of all current and former nurses who received the notice as well as their signed acknowledgments;
- Any response or complaint received by current or former nurses in response to the notice of withdrawal; and
- Written confirmation within one year that the illegal reimbursement clause has not been reintroduced into employment contracts.
This case was handled by Deputy Attorney General Roya Aghanori under the supervision of the head of the Labor Office, Karen Cacace. The Labor Office is part of the Social Justice Division, which is headed by Assistant Deputy Attorney General for Social Justice Meghan Faux, and is under the supervision of Senior Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.