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State AG looking into Alecto

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s investigation into the sudden closure of Fairmont Regional Medical Center has yielded new information about whether hospital ownership provided advance notice of a mass layoff to employees.

The West Virginia Attorney General is looking into Alecto Healthcare Services not paying its employees at the Fairmont Regional Medical Center accrued vacation time after recently closing the facility.

Investigators received multiple complaints that Alecto may have suspended operations prior to the conclusion of a mandatory notice period, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s Office.

In a letter to 13 employees so far, Morrisey thanked employees for informing him that Alecto had not paid them for the time for which they were supposed to be paid.

”I am deeply concerned with Alecto’s apparent disregard of its moral and statutory obligations and am committed to utilizing the resources of the Office of the Attorney General to pursue any available enforcement avenues,” Morrisey wrote.

Gov. Jim Justice and a number of state lawmakers have asked Morrisey to investigate after the company closed the Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling and Fairmont Regional Medical Center.

Alecto closed Ohio Valley on Sept. 3. Alecto abruptly announced the closure of Fairmont Regional on Feb. 18 when 600 physicians, nurses and others received letters saying the hospital would be closing in 60 days, according to a resolution passed earlier this year in the West Virginia House of Delegates calling on Morrisey to investigate Alecto’s business practices.

Morrisey wrote that whenever an employee is discharged, the West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act compels the employer to pay the employee’s prior earned wages.

”This payment must be made ‘on or before the next regular payday on which the wages would otherwise be due and payable,”’ Morrisey wrote, citing state code. “Employers must also pay any accrued fringe benefits ‘according to the terms of’ the relevant agreements with its employees. Violations of these mandates may entitle employees to ‘two times’ the ‘unpaid amount’ in addition to their earned wages and benefits.”

Morrisey wrote he has been closely working with the West Virginia Division of Labor to investigate any violations of the Wage Payment and Collection Act related to the abrupt closure of Fairmont Regional.

He is asking employees to submit complaints regarding unpaid wages or benefits through the Division of Labor’s Request for Assistance process to help facilitate further investigations.

”Additionally, on Friday, April 3, 2020, I personally referred this matter to the local officials in Marion County and the City of Fairmont for an investigation and potential pursuit of federal civil penalties under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act of 1988,” Morrisey wrote. ”This federal statute requires certain employers to provide 60-day notice to affected employees prior to a ‘plant closing or mass layoff.”’

Notice would also have to be provided to “the chief elected official” of the local government in which the closing occurs , Morrissey wrote citing state code.

”W.A.R.N. prohibits the closure or layoff ‘until the end of’ that 60-day period except in statutorily defined circumstances,” he wrote citing code. ”Violators may be requested to pay affected employees specified back pay and benefits…and pay the relevant local government a ‘civil penalty’ ‘of not more than $500 for each day of such violation.”

Morrisey also sent letters to the Marion County Commission and Fairmont Mayor Brad Merrifield.

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