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LiUNA-Led Effort Results In $80M of Wages Being Recovered from U.S. Health Agency


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The Indian Health Service (IHS), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will pay $80 million in back wages and penalties for their failure to abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The decision resolves a grievance brought forward by the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA!) in 2008 on behalf of 10,000 current and former workers.  

In a statement following the decision, LiUNA! General President Terry O’Sullivan said:

“This is a great victory for Indian Health Service employees.  It took many years of hard work for the union to recover millions of dollars and achieve a fair solution for the mostly Native American workforce who has labored long and tirelessly to provide health services to native people.”

Violations began in 2006. Key allegations included denial of the choice between overtime payments and compensatory time, improper travel time compensation, and failure to provide compensation for “off the clock” work, also known as ‘suffer’ or ‘permit’ overtime. 

The agreement will force IHS to acknowledge workers they previously labeled as FLSA exempt.

In a letter to tribal leaders, IHS Acting Director Robert G. McSwain argued that it is important to properly compensate workers:

“We believe that settling these claims now is right, the appropriate step, and the most fiscally responsible action.  This settlement allows us to avoid future litigation costs and the possibility of future awards totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It will allow us to continue to focus our attentions going forward on the important task of serving Indian Country health needs.”

The terms of the settlement require the IHS to deliver large amounts of information to LiUNA! so that the union can determine who is owed what.  The information is likely to be submitted before the end of the year.


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