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Rekhter V DSHS Class Action Mediation Feb. 9-10, 2011

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) approached  the class representative and class counsel several weeks ago and asked us to consider a settlement of the case before it files its appeal of the jury verdict and court decisions.  W know that the class members have waited a long time for justice in this case.  We want to make sure we get the best outcome for our clients.  We want to explore any and all options to do so.   We believe it is in the best interests of the class to explore whether the State has a reasonable offer at this time because the appeals process can take anywhere from a year and a half to three years before we learn whether the court system will allow us to recover the back wages owed in this case.

With that in mind, tomorrow and Thursday the lead attorneys and class representatives in the Rekhter v. DSHS class action lawsuit will be engaging with DSHS in a process known as mediation.  Mediation is an attempt to come to a settlement agreement led by a neutral third-party, called the mediator.  In mediation, both sides present proposals for a fair settlement.  The mediator shuttles back and forth between the parties in order to bridge the gap between the alternate proposals.  In this case, the mediator is a retired superior court judge.  The process takes some time; this mediation is scheduled for two days.  The mediator’s job is to bring the parties together.  If a settlement is reached, the class will receive formal notice by mail and publication.  However, if the parties fail to reach an agreement, the appeal process would continue as planned.

Please continue to visit our web site for additional updates with regard to this class action.  We will post updates regarding any significant developments in the case.

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DSHS Class Action – $57M Verdict For In-Home Care Providers



Largest Award Ever Against State

A Thurston County jury today found that Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) short-changed about 22,000 home healthcare workers, and awarded the group $57 million in damages. The verdict followed a three week trial. DSHS underpaid the workers over a four year period. The workers filed a class action suit against DSHS in 2007, seeking payment of amounts DSHS wrongfully withheld. Today’s verdict represents the largest damage award ever against the State.

“The jury, after hearing from both the workers and Medicaid beneficiaries, and from DSHS personnel who implemented the pay reduction, found that DSHS breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing with the workers. This case has always been about whether DSHS should pay for work it required these folks to do,” said Greg McBroom of Livengood, Fitzgerald & Alskog, the lead law firm representing the plaintiffs. McBroom also represented the plaintiffs in one of the earlier cases striking down the DSHS rule. Jenkins v. DSHS, 160 Wn.2d 287, 157 P.2d 388 (2007)

“The jury’s decision means that 22,000 people, working from 2004-2008, for a little more than minimum wage, will be paid for all the hours DSHS required them to work,” said Darrell Cochran, of the Tacoma firm Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. “While the total recovery is very large, the award to the workers amounts to about $2,500, on average. That $2,500 is a very large sum to someone making the minimum wage.”

DSHS administers Medicaid programs in Washington. In 2004, DSHS adopted a regulation that reduced pay for workers in the program by 15% if the worker lived with the person they were caring for. Workers who lived outside the home, performing the same services, received full pay for the services provided. Two trial courts struck down the DSHS rule shortly after it implemented the reduction. Even after the state Supreme Court also ruled against DSHS, the agency continued to underpay some workers for almost a year more.

The State will probably appeal the jury’s verdict said an attorney familiar with the case. If the State appeals, a final decision may be a year or two away. The Thurston county case is Rekhter v. DSHS, Docket no. 07-2-00895-8.

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