Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice and a constitutional law attorney, writes in a new op-ed that trial lawyers have opted “to sensationalize ordinary employment contract disputes” against a healthcare staffing company to pursue “higher payout or professional notoriety.”

These lawyers, representing foreign-educated nurses, claim that their clients are victims under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) because they declined to uphold their contractual duties. The nurses opted into contracts outlining that in return for receiving the many benefits offered by the staffing company (visa sponsorship, free travel, training, temporary housing, a cash bonus, etc.), they will commit to work for a specified period.

The contracts that the nurses signed stipulated that declining to uphold the agreement can result in them having to pay liquated damages to compensate the company for its significant investments in them. Without such a clause, every hired worker would quit after receiving the suite of free benefits, making it impossible for any healthcare staffing solution to exist.

The work contract is a standard one. But Levey notes that the trial lawyers claim it amounts to “indentured servitude” in violation of the TVPA, a law meant to protect victims of human trafficking and the atrocities associated with it, such as sexual abuse, slavery-like labor, and torture.

The likening of nurses who freely decide to opt out of a voluntary contract to the victims of human trafficking is a gross misuse of the legal system that undermines true victims.

If the lawsuit is taken seriously, it would also undermine an essential component of addressing the healthcare staffing shortage that affects the entire country and results in less quality healthcare for patients.

As Levey writes: “The result, fewer potential workers and fewer recruiters to find placements for them, ensures that the harm posed by these lawsuits extends to the entire healthcare system, which is already struggling with acute labor shortages.”

Read Curt Levey’s op-ed in RealClearHealth here.