WASHINGTON— To settle a complaint filed in 2008 by the Laborer’s International Union of North America (LIUNA), Indian Health Service (IHS) has agreed to pay $80 million for allegedly forcing employees overtime without pay.
The 2008 complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by LIUNA on behalf of 10,000 IHS employees at clinics and hospitals in Indian Country. The IHS agency operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In a letter in late May to tribal leaders, IHS Acting Director Robert G. McSwain stated it is important that IHS employees are properly compensated.
“We believe that settling these claims now is right, the appropriate step, and the most fiscally responsible action,” the letter, in part, stated. “This settlement allows us to avoid future litigation costs and the possibility of future awards totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It will allow us to continue to focus our attentions going forward on the important task of serving Indian Country health needs.”
In the original complaint, LIUNA claimed IHS did not allow its employees the right to option for overtime pay instead of compensatory time off, failed to compensate employees for their travel time and failed to compensate for “off the clock” employment.
“This is a great victory for Indian Health Service employees,” LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan said in a news release. “It took many years of hard work for the union to recover millions of dollars and achieve a fair solution for the mostly Native American workforce who has labored long and tirelessly to provide health services to Native people.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article was posted with the wrong headline. The original headline read: Indian Health Service to Pay $80 Million to Settle Claim it Forced Employees to Work Overtime with Pay. The corrected version reads: ndian Health Service to Pay $80 Million to Settle Claim it Forced Employees to Work Overtime without Pay.