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Attorney for MU Hospital employees seeks to keep lawsuit on table

Attorneys for one current and one former MU Health Care employee believe a lawsuit against the company should continue.

The motion, filed by Kansas City-based attorney Brendan Donelon, opposes UMHC’s request to dismiss the lawsuit filed by respiratory therapists Richard Hunsley and Donna Reeves. The two sued in 2016 over the hospital’s Kronos time-keeping system automatically deducting 30 minutes for meal breaks, even if the employees did not take that time.

A hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19 in Boone County over the two motions, as well as a request from Donelon to certify the lawsuit as a class-action. If certified as a class-action suit for similar therapists, the lawsuit could affect 2,601 employees.

The two sides are scheduled for a settlement conference on Dec. 13, according to public court filings.

Attorneys for UMHC asked for summary judgment last month, calling the lawsuit “ill-conceived.” Kronos allows employees to correct hours through an “exception log,” and the plaintiffs knew this needed to be done if they worked through their break. Hunsley used this twice between 2011 and 2016, while Reeves utilized the function 28 times. In each instance, both reported “that their time was corrected and recorded accurately,” the motion said.

Donelon disputed how the attorneys were portraying the instruction given to employees on that issue. Hunsley and Reeves were told to use the exception log if they accrued 30 minutes of downtime throughout the shifts that lasted more than eight hours.

“These practices by UMHC violated its written policies that a thirty-minute meal break had to be uninterrupted in length for an employee to have thirty minutes of pay removed from their shift,” Donelon wrote.

The hospitals ended the auto-deduction function of Kronos in August 2016, the motion said, after employees notified adminstration. According to one email, Donelon said, the head of UMHC’s compensation Bertt Matthews thought they were a “‘huge risk for a [Department of Labor] review,” the motion said.

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