John O'Connor

Two entities outside this sector just got seriously slapped for dubious labor practices. Wise senior living operators would do well to take a lesson or two here.

Does your organization prohibit employees from discussing pay? If so, you’d better tell HR to get rewrite. In a case that could have clear implications for this sector, the National Labor Relations Board determined that such a policy violates the National Labor Relations Act.

The ruling in this instance came against Lowe’s, a firm that sells home-improvement products. Workers at the big-box retailer challenged the policy. Lowe’s countered that the prohibition was not meant to stop comparison-griping per se. Rather, it really was meant to ensure compliance with anti-trust laws and applied only to certain employees. A presiding judge, however, ruled the policy actually did apply to all employees. Moreover, it interfered with their rights to discuss working conditions.

In another development that could serve up a teaching moment, a hospital in Philadelphia will have to pay more than half a million dollars to resolve meal time paycheck deductions.

More than 360 employees claimed their pay was docked for meal breaks they had to work through. As a result, workers lost out on both regular pay and overtime compensation, the lawsuit alleged.

Under a court-approved agreement, Eagleville Hospital will pay $307,000 to employees and $182,000 to their attorneys. The balance of the settlement will cover incentive payments for several employees and some additional miscellaneous costs.

So what are the takeaways here? Two come to mind: First, be careful when it comes to telling workers what they aren’t allowed to talk about. Second, cutting corners to trim payroll can be an expensive proposition.

John O’Connor is editorial director of 
McKnight’s Senior Living. Email him at [email protected].