A group of former Long Beach Medical Center employees who were laid off after Hurricane Sandy filed a class action lawsuit on Monday against the hospital and its chief executive officer in an effort to recoup money they say they are owed.
Michael Berman, a Long Beach attorney representing 11 employees who filed the suit in State Supreme Court in Mineola, said that for the past year, the hospital has “unilaterally and intentionally” withheld the employees’ pay for unused and current vacation time, holidays, overtime and personal days as well as longevity bonuses, “unjustly enriching themselves to the detriment of plaintiffs …”
“The hospital boasted that ‘we are one big family,’” Berman said. “But now, some people are struggling monetarily. When you don’t have a year of salary or the benefits you thought you were going to have, it’s hard to consider them a good family.”
The hospital was the largest employer on the barrier island, and the employees said that the closure has had a ripple effect throughout the community, and criticized hospital administrators for the way they have treated employees while continuing to collect exorbitant salaries.
“They really don’t understand what’s going on,” said Maggie Pawlowski, a 26-year employee who was the director of nursing for LBMC’s inpatient unit. “A lot of people still have not found jobs. A lot of employees are not back in their homes. I just want what’s owed to me, the accrued time I have.”
The 162-bed hospital closed after 10 feet of water flooded its basement during Hurricane Sandy, causing roughly $100 million in damage. All of the major work to allow two wings to open, including the emergency department, was completed in June.
But the state Department of Health blocked the facility from reopening, when Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said that LBMC, which had lost more than $2 million per year since 2008, had failed to produce a sustainable business plan that would meet the needs of the community. The state called on the hospital to file for bankruptcy, close its acute-care service and merge with South Nassau Communities Hospital, saying that it should function as a freestanding emergency department with urgent-care and primary-care services.