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WAMC News

NY AG: Albany Med Must Return 'Repayment Fee' To Foreign Nurses

Albany Medical Center sign
Lucas Willard
/
WAMC
Albany Medical Center sign

New York State Attorney General Letitia James say her office has reached an agreement with Albany Medical Center to pay back more than $90,000 to nurses who either quit or were fired within three years of employment. In a statement, James called a “repayment fee” in Albany Med’s contracts with nurses recruited from foreign countries “unlawful.” The Democrat says seven nurses, most of them from the Philippines, were forced to pay as much as $20,000 each when they were terminated or resigned before the three-year mark. James says the provision also threatened legal action or involvement from immigration authorities if the nurses did not make the payments.

“As we’ve seen with the COVID-19 crisis, nurses are the backbone of our health care system and deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity,” says James. “By forcing its employees to choose between paying outrageous sums to leave their jobs, or facing immigration authorities, Albany Med violated their rights as workers and as individuals." 

The New York State Nurses Association notified James of the provision in February of 2020. James says the fee violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, and pressured the nurses to stay at Albany Med even if they thought they could find better pay or working conditions elsewhere. Unionized nurses at Albany Med have gone on strike multiple times amid a years-long stalemate with the health system over labor contracts, staffing levels, and working conditions — especially during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Under the deal, Albany Med will return $82,000 to the workers and more than $8,000 in interest. It will also notify all current and former nurses of the deal, and remove the provision from all of its employment contracts.

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