The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries today issued a notice of intent to assess civil penalties of nearly $5.2 million against Legacy Health for depriving workers of meal and rest breaks at three Legacy hospitals.

The proposed penalty is the largest in the agency's history and comes in response to complaints that Legacy repeatedly violated a basic requirement for workers' well-being.

"Under Oregon law, employers must provide one 30-minute unpaid meal break to anyone working a shift of six hours or more," Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian's agency explained in a statement. "Businesses must also provide two paid 10-minute rest breaks in an eight-hour shift and three such breaks in any shift longer than 10 hours."

A BOLI investigation found that in 2017 Legacy hospitals had deprived workers of required breaks on 5,156 occasions. It could be liable for penalties of $1,000 for each instance.

Last year, BOLI assessed $276,690 in penalties against Legacy for previous, similar violations. Legacy paid that amount.

The hospital system now has until Sept. 25 to agree to the currently proposed penalties or seek a contested case hearing.

Legacy spokesman Brian Terrett says the hospital system is committed to the well-being of its staff and to obeying all laws.

"Legacy Health fundamentally disagrees with the results of the BOLI investigation and its allegations regarding the appropriateness of the meal periods that Legacy has provided to its employees. We strongly dispute BOLI's inappropriate characterization of Legacy's actions as willful as well as the excessive and disproportionate penalties. We are dismayed that, in at least one case, BOLI pointed to an eight-year-old complaint to justify itself," Terrett said in a statement.

"Further, we are disappointed that BOLI's investigation failed to take into account the fact that the needs of our patients and their families sometimes cause meal breaks to be deferred to later in a shift. Legacy Health will seek a hearing on these allegations through all levels of the civil administrative process and the legal process and vigorously defend our actions and policies."