Sanford Heisler Sharp and Valerian Law attorneys who are representing a former nursing leader at a North Bay acute psychiatric hospital today announced a landmark Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) settlement following more than three years of litigation.
In 2018, Valerian Law, P.C. and Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP filed Brooke v. Aurora Behavioral Healthcare-Santa Rosa, LLC et al. alleging that understaffing and related issues caused pervasive Cal-OSHA violations at a Santa Rosa behavioral healthcare hospital operated by Signature Healthcare Services, LLC, one of the largest privately-held behavioral health hospital conglomerates in the U.S. Using PAGA, the plaintiff sought to recover Labor Code penalties on behalf of the State of California for unlawful working conditions experienced by nurses and other hospital staff.
On August 25, the Superior Court of California approved a settlement including a Gross Settlement Fund of $2,850,000—with 2,046,750 being paid to the State of California and $682,250 being paid to hospital staff, based on formulas mandated by the PAGA statute. The court-approved settlement also includes various additional programmatic measures agreed to by the parties, including notice to employees that they will not face repercussions for speaking up regarding unsafe or unlawful practices. The settlement further provides for the parties to jointly retain an outside expert to evaluate the hospital’s policies, practices, and procedures and make recommendations for any changes it may deem needed to improve working conditions for front-line staff who care for acute patients.