A state district judge in New Mexico granted class-action status to a lawsuit brought against St. Vincent Hospital, also known as Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, by employees seeking back pay and other compensation for unpaid wages and forfeited lunch breaks.

The decision, announced in court by Judge Sarah Singleton of the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe on March 13, means as many as 2,000 previous and current employees who worked between 2008 and the present could potentially opt into the litigation, said Stephen Curtice, an attorney with Youtz & Valdez, the Albuquerque law firm handling the case.

The case, Cruse v. St. Vincent Hospital, was originally filed in 2010 by seven plaintiffs who contend they were not compensated for all hours worked in violation of state law including the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, the suit states. View the complaint here.

In the complaint, the plaintiffs assert that the medical center made it impractical for employees to take a lunch break due to inadequate staffing.

“As a consequence of the Hospital’s deliberate staffing patterns, employees are rarely able to take a thirty-minute lunch break and are generally required to work through lunch,” the suit said. “Despite employees inability to actually take the lunch break, the Defendant generally deducts thirty minutes from each employee’s time worked for the day.”

The suit states the hospital knowingly received the benefit of tens of thousands of hours of work, much of it performed at overtime rates, for which it has not compensated its employees. The plaintiffs are seeking three times their lost wages, Curtice said.

The attorneys representing the plaintiffs are Shane Youtz, Stephen Curtice and James Montalbano of Youtz & Valdez P.C. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and James Piotrowski of Herzfeld & Piotrowski in Boise, Idaho.

Laura Castro is a contributing writer for The National Law Journal.