charleston – Close to 300 former employees of Fairmont Regional Medical Center will receive almost $850,000 in unpaid earned benefit time as part of an agreement stemming from an investigation by the state attorney general.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and the Service Employees International Union District 1199 W.Va., Kentucky, and Ohio made a joint announcement Wednesday saying Alecto Healthcare Services Inc., of Irvine, Calif., will pay $844,342.49 for previously unpaid vacation time and bonus days to former employees of Fairmont Regional Medical Center.
The hospital laid off 528 employees when it closed March 19, a month ahead of its previously announced closure date of April 18.
“This impacts medical technologists, radiologists, pharmacists, nurses, psychotherapists and respiratory therapists, and others who were members of the union,” said Joyce Gibson, regional director for SEIU 1199. “It’s monies that truly is owed to them. These are earned benefits.”
On March 26, Gibson announced plans to sue Alecto at the same time Morrisey was in the midst of an investigation to determine whether Alecto broke the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988 when it closed the facility last month. Citing losses of more than $19 million, on Feb. 18, FRMC CEO Robert Adcock unexpectedly gave the hospital employees letters stating it would shut down in 60 days.
Gibson admits the settlement announced Wednesday took place quickly, but she credits Morrisey for the speed in which Alecto responded.
“It is quick,” Gibson said. “I think with the attorney general’s office putting pressure on Alecto helped.”
Although she said the parties to the action are grateful, the fight continues. Alecto still owes FRMC employees money from other corporate benefits.
“Workers are every ecstatic, but this is not over,” Gibson said. “Where we go from here, is we are going to continue to actively pursue the money that is owed them from the 401(k) match from 2019, which is supposed to be paid in full by April 13.”
Gibson said for the last three years, SEIU has had to file a grievance under the Fair Labor Standards Act to force Alecto to pay its employees’ 401(k) match.
“Since Alecto has been there, it’s been a fight to get them to pay the 401k match. We’ve had to file for arbitration to get them paid each year for the last three years. The unions had to go through the grievance procedure each time,” Gibson said.
While Gibson said she does not have a dollar amount for the 401(k) match that Alecto owes its employees, she confirmed she is continuing to work with Morrisey and his staff to strike a second agreement to settle.
“I am pleased to hear that Alecto has agreed to pay nearly $1 million in paid time off to employees who earned that money through their hard work and loyalty at Fairmont Regional Medical Center,” Morrisey said. “This is an important first step by Alecto, but make no mistake that our office remains committed to taking every step possible to help the workers who were improperly treated.
Morrisey said FRMC “did not ask for the sudden closure of Fairmont Regional Medical Center” and that the closure was “forced upon the employees and the community at large amid a global pandemic.”
He said FRMC employees deserve better treatment than exhibited by Alecto.
“Our office intends to leave no stone unturned. Employees of Fairmont Regional, as well as those at Ohio Valley Medical Center, deserve nothing less,” said Morrisey referring to another Alecto-owned hospital in Wheeling that the company shuttered last September 4.
On Monday, Morrisey said he mailed letters to Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield and Marion County Administrator Kris Cinalli asking the county and city to launch an investigation into whether Alecto broke the WARN Act of 1988.
Merrifield said Wednesday that he had received Morrisey’s letter and then gave it to City Manager Valerie Means to discuss with the city attorney. He withheld commenting on whether Alecto broke any laws, but said the attorney general’s letter is a positive step forward.
“I think it’s positive. I think people need to be held accountable if they did something that wasn’t right. It’s positive in the fact that [Morrisey}he’s checking it out and not just letting it go by the wayside. With so many things going on, it’d be easy to fall by the wayside,” Merriffield said.
“This is a major victory for the workers of Fairmont Regional Medical Center, who continued to provide quality care to this community up until the day Alecto shuttered the doors of hospital,” said Joyce Gibson, regional director for SEIU District 1199 WV/KY/OH. “By working with Governor Justice and Attorney General Morrisey, we are sending a message that if you are going to do business in West Virginia, you have to treat our workers with dignity and respect.”
Another suit is also in the works against Alecto and FRMC. On Monday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents 120 former employees said it intends to file suit “in the coming days.”
“We are in the middle of a pandemic the likes of which our country has never witnessed. We are opening field hospitals across the country to ensure we have enough beds for potentially hundreds of thousands of patients who will succumb to the COVID-19 virus,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU. “It is outrageous that Alecto would choose to close this facility now, with no warning, in the middle of this national crisis. One-hundred twenty critical care professionals who need to be on the front lines of this epidemic aren’t able to care for their now hospital-less community.”
While she continues to seek damages, Gibson said she looks at Wednesday’s news as a victory.
“This is a major victory for the workers of Fairmont Regional Medical Center, who continued to provide quality care to this community up until the day Alecto shuttered the doors of the hospital,” Gibson said.
Alecto purchased then-Fairmont General Hospital in June 2014 for $15.3 million after the hospital went into bankruptcy. The company changed the hospital’s name to Fairmont Regional Medical Center shortly purchase.