AVH backpedals, will pay laid-off workers more
The Aspen Valley Hospital employees terminated in April will receive more severance money than expected.Interim CEO Bob Karp said loyalty to the former employees and public relations were deciding factors in the decision.”We wanted to demonstrate that although they were terminated, there is still a lot of loyalty to our former employees,” Karp said. “This is a tough time for us financially, and every dollar is important to us. But what’s more important is the public perception of AVH as a community hospital.”Just weeks before the April layoffs, the AVH board drastically reduced the severance payments called for in the hospital’s employee handbook, changing the language to read “no employee is entitled to severance pay upon termination of employment.”But now the hospital will spend $34,000 to ensure the former employees receive the minimum payments mandated in the old handbook.The changes prompted Cathy Zimmer, a 13-year employee of the hospital, to speak out at a recent board meeting and publicly ask the hospital to honor its commitments. A Glenwood Springs-based employment lawyer, Sandy Karp, was hired by several other employees to represent them in negotiations over severance pay.Karp said the hospital had no legal obligation to honor the original handbook. The payments are a “one-time only accommodation,” he added, and severance pay in future layoffs will be made at the discretion of the CEO. He also said the payments do not affect all of the 34 employees, because some employees received more severance pay than mandated in the original handbook.Sandy Karp did not return phone calls yesterday for comment.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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