Joliet nurses file lawsuit alleging wage theft

Lawsuit filed Tuesday in Will County Circuit Court

Union nurses on strike on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet Hospital, 333 Madison St., Joliet.

Nurses at Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet have filed a lawsuit alleging wage theft and saying that they were given full pay for working extra shifts at the hospital.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Will County Circuit Court is the latest development in a nine-month contract standoff between the union nurses and hospital management.

More than 90 nurses did not receive incentive pay that was agreed upon for working extra shifts before a November strike and lockout that lasted four days, according to the lawsuit.

“The employer agreed, both as a matter of standing policy and individually with each nurse for each shift, to pay incentive pay for shifts that nurses worked above and beyond their normal schedule,” Will Bloom, attorney for the nurses, said in a news release announcing the lawsuit. “Only after the nurses had worked the agreed shifts did the employer announce that they would not pay them as agreed. That’s textbook wage theft.”

Union nurses on strike on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Ascension Saint Joseph – Joliet Hospital, 333 Madison St., Joliet.

A spokesperson for Ascension said hospital management followed its contract with the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), the union that represents the Joliet nurses.

“INA represented nurses were paid pursuant to the terms of the union’s negotiated collective bargaining agreement,” Ascension spokesperson Olga Solares said in an emailed statement. “This lawsuit has no merit, and we will be seeking its dismissal.”

Solares did not detail what terms of the contract were followed.

According to the lawsuit, Ascension has contended that nurses lost their right to the incentive pay because of their absences during the four-day work stoppage in November. But management continued to sign up nurses for the extra work knowing the work stoppage was coming, the lawsuit states.

Nurses continue their strike outside Ascension Saint Joseph Joliet on Thursday, Feb. 8th 2024 in Joliet.

The lawsuit describes the work stoppage as a lockout, saying Ascension management was the cause of the nurses being absent from work.

The four-day work stoppage was one of three that has taken place since contract talks started in May. Each work stoppage was initiated by nurses calling for a two-day strike based on allegations of unfair labor practices.

Ascension, in turn, has kept nurses off the job an additional two days, saying its contract for replacement nurses during a strike requires that they be employed for at least four days.

Both sides said they would continue to negotiate to reach a contract agreement.

Ascension has said it is implementing terms of what it describes as its last, best and final offer, while the INA has filed an unfair labor practice complaint contending that the proposal cannot be put into place without agreement from both sides.