Joliet nurses file class-action suit against Ascension Health over claim of wage theft

A class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday in Will County claims over 90 nurses at Ascension Saint Joseph in Joliet weren't paid wages they had been promised leading up to a lockout late last year.

The suit, filed in Will County circuit court, accuses healthcare giant Ascension Health of wage theft for allegedly failing to pay nurses Kaitlynd French, Beth Corsetti and over 90 others prior to the November lockout, according to a statement from the Illinois Nurses Association (INA).

The complaint claims Ascension Health agreed to pay the nurses extra to work shifts beyond their normal schedules, then refused to pay them after the shifts had been worked.

The nurses union said Ascension Saint Joseph has faced staffing challenges for years and has relied on its existing nurses to pick up extra shifts beyond their normal schedule to keep the hospital running.

"The silver lining of Joe’s being understaffed is that you can always make some extra money picking up ‘incentive shifts’," French said in a statement.

Nurses at Ascension Saint Joseph - Joliet hospital will be going on strike for two days next week.  (FOX 32 News )

Nurses were locked out of the hospital for four days around Thanksgiving in what the union claimed was retaliation for calling a two-day strike.

During the same pay period, the union said nurses were asked to pick up extra shifts for incentive pay, but were allegedly told after returning to work the following week that they wouldn't be paid at the rate Ascension had promised.

"The employer agreed, both as a matter of standing policy and individually with each nurse for each shift, to pay incentive pay for shifts that nurses worked above and beyond their normal schedule," attorney Will Bloom said in a statement.

"Only after the nurses had worked the agreed shifts did the employer announce that they would not pay them as agreed. That’s textbook wage theft," he added.

Ascension and the nurses have been in contract negotiations since May 2023. The healthcare workers went on strike twice last year, and once again this month demanding better pay and staffing. The nurses' union said they went on two Unfair Labor Practice strikes because the company wasn't bargaining in good faith.

FOX Chicago has reached out to Ascension Health for a statement, but has not yet heard back.

The nurses are being represented by Despres, Schwartz and Geoghegan Ltd.