Another exemption lawsuit has been filed. What else is new? This time, a group of nurses and care coordinators determine who analyze requests for coverage from health care providers have claimed they are entitled to overtime because they are non-exempt. They have filed a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The case is entitled Cole v. Highmark Inc. and was filed in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania.
The suit seeks to include in the class utilization management nurses, utilization review nurses, care coordinators, nurse reviewers, care management nurses and other similar employees. The Complaint alleges that the “defendant has been aware, or should have been aware, that plaintiff, the FLSA collective, and Pennsylvania class performed non-exempt work that required payment of overtime compensation. Defendant also required plaintiff, the FLSA collective, and Pennsylvania class, to work long hours, including overtime hours, to complete all of their job responsibilities and meet defendant’s productivity standards.”
These workers performed what is deemed “utilization review work,” according to the Complaint. They charge that all they did was to apply existing criteria and guidelines to the various requests for authorization by doctors and other health care providers who wanted their services covered by insurance and therefore reimbursable.
The Complaint alleges that when the plaintiff complained about long hours/workload, the Supervisor replied that she was working in a “salaried position” and that she had to complete her assignments. The Complaint also asserts that there are “numerous similarly-situated current and former employees” who are in the same boat and should receive notice of the action and an opportunity to join in.
I think this is an uphill fight for the plaintiffs. I have litigated many of these cases involving these kinds of employees and I have found that they do exercise the kind of discretion and independent judgment needed for the administrative exemption. Many jobs require the use of guidance materials but these employees work off of that general guidance and make evaluations and judgments on these care and insurance issues. That spells defeat for these plaintiffs.