Michigan mental health hospital sued over exhausted employees

LANSING (AP) — A lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of involuntary patients at a Michigan mental health hospital says mandatory overtime for employees is endangering patients.

The federal complaint argues the rules lead to exhausted employees who are unable to control some patients’ violent behavior, The Detroit News reported. Lawyers are seeking class-action status to cover the center’s more than 600 patients, and say changes would also protect employees.

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the center, said the agency couldn’t comment on pending litigation.

The lead plaintiff in the lawsuit is Alan Teasel, a patient at the Caro Center psychiatric hospital in Tuscola County. The suit alleges Teasel has observed “increased violence among patients” as residential care aides have been forced to work more overtime shifts.

“Where patient populations residing in locked wards have assaultive and murderous criminal records and suffer psychotic conditions, including severe depression, a wakeful and alert staff is required at all times,” the lawsuit states. “That staff is now virtually non-existent, and patients have suffered significant injury to their health and well-being as a result.”

Detroit-based labor attorney Bruce Miller, who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit, said the “involuntary” status of Teasel and other patients at state-run mental health hospitals makes them qualified to challenge overtime rules for Caro residential care aides.

“This is a serious problem,” Miller said. “These patients can’t just get up and leave, and because of the character of their illnesses, they require the services of an alert staff.”


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