Years Of Unpaid Lunches and Breaks at Heart of Wheaton Franciscan Complaints

8639003804_2bd2b5f140_zEmployees at Wheaton Franciscan Hospital-All Saints have filed complaints with the state and received back pay from Wheaton over discrepancies with their paychecks that had occurred — in some cases — for two years.

Four employees from Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints have filed complaints with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for not being paid for lunches that they worked. The company also took pay out for breaks, but the workers did not take them. A payroll person from Wheaton Franciscan allegedly told the employees that their time cards were “manipulated” by managers, according to records obtained through an open records request from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

The employees — Tina Tyler, Laurel Ostergaard, Tria Braun, and Melissa Jozefowski — worked at the St. Luke’s campus on Wisconsin Avenue. Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-All Saints paid Tyler, Ostergaard, and Braun for back pay, according to the complaint file.

Jozefowski filed her complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce earlier this month, and Wheaton responded to her complaint Tuesday, said Anne Ballentine, vice president of communications and public relations.

“Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare has diligently investigated and worked to resolve the claims,” Ballentine said.

Racine County Eye also learned that a fifth person, who wished not to be named, also received back pay for working through lunches and breaks. That employee’s check was marked, “settlement.”

Ballentine would not comment any further on the matter. Calls made to Tyler, Ostergaard, Braun and Jozefowski were not returned.

State law requires employers to pay employees for “on duty” lunches when a worker is not given at least 30 consecutive minutes free from work, or where the worker is not free to leave the employer’s premises, according to the state.

“Employers may not deduct from a worker’s wages for authorized breaks of less than 30 consecutive minutes,” according to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development website. Per state law, “employers who provide breaks of ‘less than 30 consecutive minutes in duration’ should have those breaks counted as work time. While the state doesn’t require employers to give breaks, it is recommended that they do.”

Braun, Tyler, Ostergaard and Jozefowski learned earlier this year that an unnamed payroll person with Wheaton Franciscan was “told to manipulate” Braun’s time card and change it to look as though they took an unpaid lunch when they had actually worked through their lunch hours, according to the complaint.

“The payroll person told me that this occurred to multiple employees, not just me,” Braun wrote in the complaint to the Department of Workforce Development.

Further, the payroll person told Braun that if the employees were not on a special list, they were not getting paid to work through their lunch.

In the complaint, which was filed in March, Braun alleged that Wheaton staffed the mental health unit at “critically low” levels, and they were told that if they took a lunch “it would be a safety problem or impact patients’ negatively.”

She also brought those and several other concerns to the attention of senior officials a year ago.

“None of them offered me assistance in the matters at the time,” Braun wrote in her complaint.

After Braun and several other staff members complained to senior officials at Wheaton Franciscan, Braun alleges in the complaint that management staff retaliated against her by putting a fake performance evaluation in her employee record and threatened to demote her. Concerned that an internal investigation might not be “managed appropriately,” Braun, Tyler, Ostergaard and Jozefowski filed complaints with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

Still, Braun told a DWD investigator that other employees were afraid to complain to the state because of the way Braun was treated when she came forward about the payroll concerns in February and March.

The employees that have received their back pay have had their complaints closed as “paid in full,” said John Dipko, communications director with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Center.

 

About Denise Lockwood 878 Articles
Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.