Case DescriptionCase Type: Whistleblower
Organizations: Aurora Behavioral Healthcare – Santa Rosa, LLC and Signature Healthcare Services, LLC
After more than three years of litigation, attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp and Valerian Law announced they reached a landmark Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) settlement on behalf of a former nursing leader at a North Bay acute psychiatric hospital.
The Superior Court of California approved the settlement, including a Gross Settlement Fund of $2,850,000. The State of California will receive $2,046,750 from the settlement, while $682,250 will be distributed 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.
Additionally, the settlement allows the parties to jointly retain an outside expert to evaluate the hospital’s policies, practices, and procedures, as well as make recommendations for any changes deemed necessary to improve working conditions for front-line staff who care for acute patients.
About the Lawsuit
In 2018, Valerian Law, P.C. and Sanford Heisler Sharp filed Brooke v. Aurora Behavioral Healthcare-Santa Rosa, LLC et al. The lawsuit alleged that understaffing and related issues caused pervasive Cal-OSHA violations at a Santa Rosa behavioral healthcare hospital operated by Signature Healthcare Services, LLC. Using PAGA, we sought to recover Labor Code penalties on behalf of the State of California for unlawful working conditions experienced by nurses and other hospital staff.
Speaking about the settlement, Andrew Melzer, co-lead counsel and partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP, said:
“In approving the settlement, the Court recognized that the settlement provides genuine and meaningful relief that will benefit the Santa Rosa hospital employees as well as the public. This case reinforces that we can and should be pursuing Labor Code and whistleblower actions aimed at deterring violations and improving conditions for hospital workers.”
Qiaojing Ella Zheng, a partner at Sanford Heisler Sharp’s San Francisco Office, notes:
“The resolution of this matter not only presents the employees in the Santa Rosa facility with an outstanding result, but also sets an example of how psychiatric hospitals all over the state should protect the health and safety of these frontline healthcare workers.”
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