ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Operators of an Albany hospital agreed to stop levying hefty fines on nurses recruited from the Philippines and other countries if they left their jobs within three years and to return $90,000 to seven former nurses, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Thursday.
The legal agreement ends contractual “repayment" fees for international nurse recruits at Albany Medical Center, which obligated them to pay up to $20,000 if they resigned or were fired before the end of their three-year employment commitment. Nurses who didn't comply faced the threat of legal action or being reported to immigration authorities, according to court papers.
The attorney general's office argued the contract provision under permanent visa arrangements violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
“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,” James said in a prepared release.
Albany Med Health System disputed the AG's findings. They agreed to remove the provision from employment contracts and to repay the seven nurses solely to avoid litigation costs, according to court papers.
In an emailed statement, Albany Med said they value all their nurses and are proud of our efforts to recruit and support nurses from the Philippines.
“We do not agree with the Attorney General’s characterization of the facts in this case, and we do not believe that Albany Med did anything wrong," the statement said, adding that it is “not worth our time, effort or expense to fight these politically motivated allegations.”
James issued a subpoena in February 2020 after the matter was referred to her office by the New York State Nurses Association, which had sued the hospital the previous year over the provision.