PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Members of the Oregon Nurses Association say they’ve filed a lawsuit against hospital chain CommonSpirit Health for withholding wages from healthcare workers at two hospitals in the state.
As the U.S.’s second-largest nonprofit hospital system, CommonSpirit owns 140 hospitals throughout the country, including the Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and the St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton.
More than 500 health care workers at the two hospitals are represented by ONA, which says CommonSpirit still owes the employees wages that weren’t paid last year.
“In October 2022, CommonSpirit experienced a cyberattack which compromised more than half a million patients’ personal health information and shut down hospital IT systems including electronic timekeeping systems,” ONA said in a release. “In the pay periods following the outage, CommonSpirit significantly underpaid many nurses and allied health workers while also claiming it overpaid certain workers.”
Following the cyber attack, the nurses association reports that CommonSpirit chose to withhold employees’ future payments rather than showing proof of the overpayments. According to ONA, one nurse at the Mercy Medical Center received $0 after working 67 hours in a single pay period.
ONA added that the hospital chain told several nurses they owed more than $2000 each to the company, but CommonSpirit failed to show any proof.
CommonSpirit also has yet to properly pay the health care workers who lost money after the cyber attack, according to the Nurses Association.
ONA reports that Commonspirit originally overpaid LaRae Ernst, a registered nurse at Mercy Medical Center, but went on to withhold thousands of dollars from her and threatened to send her to collections if she didn’t pay back double the amount that she was overpaid.
“I clock in with the expectation that I’m going to get paid for my work, my experience, my education,” Ernst told Roseburg’s The News-Review in December 2022. “I had to cancel my daughter’s Sweet 16. It broke my heart to look my daughter in the eye and tell her she wasn’t going to get her party. That’s when I decided I wasn’t going to be quiet anymore about this.”
ONA says the lawsuit filed against CommonSpirit is a last resort, after more than 370 association members submitted a signed petition to their hospital management demanding that the hospital chain show proof of its overpayments.
According to the nurses association, CommonSpirit could owe up to $200,000 in unpaid or illegally withheld wages and face a fine of $800,000 in statutory penalties and damages. The class action lawsuit is filed in Marion County Circuit Court.
KOIN 6 reached out to CommonSpirit for comment, but the company has yet to respond.