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Albany Med Health System Pays Back More than $24K to Overseas Nurses in 'Illegal' Repayment Fees

Analysis  |  By Carol Davis  
   September 20, 2022

Second settlement brings the total amount the health system will pay in restitution to $114K.

Overseas nurses charged an “illegal” repayment fee if they resigned or were fired within the first three years of employment at Albany Med Health System in New York got their money back.

New York Attorney General Letitia James recently saw the return of more than $24,000 to eight nurses who paid illegal repayment fees to Albany Med between 2007 and 2010, according to her office.

It was the second such settlement involving Albany Med and repayment fees. In 2021, after the matter was referred to James’ office by the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), James recovered more than $90,000 for seven former nurses of the health system who each were forced to pay up to $20,000 if they resigned or were fired within three years of employment, the AG office said.

The repayment provision threatened the nurses, most of whom were from the Philippines, with legal action and the involvement of immigration authorities if they did not make the payments, according to James’ office.

The provision discouraged nurses from leaving Albany Med, even if employment conditions were unsustainable, or if they were able to find higher payment or better opportunity elsewhere.

Albany Med was found to have violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act through its provision, which constitutes a threat of sufficiently serious legal and financial harm “to compel a reasonable person of the same background and in the same circumstances to perform or to continue performing labor or services in order to avoid incurring that harm.”

The 2021 settlement required Albany Med to remove the repayment provision from all employment contracts and notify current and former nurses of the clause’s removal. The health system also must submit written reports on their compliance to the attorney general’s office. Albany Med has since complied with all stipulations of the agreement.

Following the news of that settlement, additional former nurses of Albany Med came forward and reported similar treatment, which resulted in this latest settlement, bringing the total amount Albany Med will pay in restitution to $114,000.

“I will not allow hardworking nurses—frontline workers—to be taken advantage of in New York state,” James said. “Our healthcare system is dependent on nurses, and they deserve to be treated with the highest respect and dignity.”

“I am proud that we can continue to protect the nurses who were impacted by these illegal contracts, return the funds stolen from them, and hold employers accountable,” she said.

NYSNA also reacted favorably to the settlement it set in motion.

“This second settlement for Albany Medical Center nurses is a victory for immigrant nurses and workers everywhere who have been subjected to coercive employment contracts,” said Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN, president of NYSNA. “We applaud Attorney General Letitia James’ office for taking action to protect New York’s workers—wherever they hail from—and winning a settlement that returns some of the nurses’ hard-earned money.”

Albany Med did not respond to HealthLeaders’ request for comment.

“I will not allow hardworking nurses—frontline workers—to be taken advantage of in New York state.”

Carol Davis is the Nursing Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Repayment provision threatened overseas nurses with legal and immigration action if they did not make the repayment fee.

The matter was initially referred to the Office of the Attorney General by the New York State Nurses Association.

Albany Med must now remove the repayment provision from all employment contracts.


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