Nurses sue health giant CommonSpirit for missed payments and wage theft at Roseburg hospital
Written by Press Release on March 8, 2023
Salem, OR., – After months of inaccurate and illegally withheld pay, Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) members filed a class action lawsuit against CommonSpirit Health in February. Nurses are suing CommonSpirit to stop it from committing wage theft and recoup lost pay for health care workers at CommonSpirit’s hospitals in Roseburg and Pendleton.
ONA represents more than 500 registered nurses and allied health care workers at CommonSpirit-owned Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton. CommonSpirit is the country’s third-largest hospital and health care system. It owns 140 hospitals and more than 1,500 other health care sites in 21 states.
Nurses’ class action lawsuit seeks to recover unpaid wages and damages owed to all workers at CommonSpirit facilities in Oregon, prevent CommonSpirit from continuing its wage theft and provide a fair and accurate accounting of workers’ hours and pay.
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.
In the pay periods following the outage, CommonSpirit significantly underpaid many nurses and allied health workers while also claiming it overpaid certain workers. Instead of providing proof of alleged overpayments, CommonSpirit illegally withheld workers’ earnings from future paychecks. This resulted in nurses receiving less pay than they earned including one Mercy nurse getting paid $0 after working 67 hours in a pay period. CommonSpirit also told multiple nurses they owe it more than $2000 each without providing any documentation or evidence.
CommonSpirit has also failed correct its inaccurate underpayments–leaving frontline workers waiting months to receive the full pay and benefits they’ve earned.
“I clock in with the expectation that I’m going to get paid for my work, my experience, my education,” registered nurse LaRae Ernst told The News-Review in December 2022. Ernst is an ONA member at Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg, Oregon. CommonSpirit initially overpaid her in October 2022. It then incorrectly withheld thousands of dollars from her paychecks before asking her to payback twice the amount of the original overpayment or risk being sent to collections. “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 any more about this.”
Nurses have been asking CommonSpirit to address its wage theft and inaccurate payments since November. In December, more than 370 ONA nurses and health care workers at Mercy Medical Center and St. Anthony Hospital delivered a signed petition to hospital management demanding CommonSpirit provide documentation of alleged overpayments. Workers also met with hospital management to ask for an independent audit but were denied–leaving nurses no choice but to pursue legal action to ensure frontline nurses and health care workers are paid the amounts they’ve earned.
Any Oregon nurse, caregiver, or health care workers who has been a victim of CommonSpirit’s wage theft and inaccurate pay is considered part of the class action. The lawsuit is filed in Marion County Circuit Court. Plaintiffs estimate CommonSpirit may owe workers as much as $200,000 in unpaid or improperly withheld wages and CommonSpirit could face up to $800,000 in statutory penalties and damages.
The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) is the state’s largest and most influential nursing organization. We are a professional association and labor union which represents more than 15,000 nurses and allied health workers throughout the state, including more than 500 registered nurses working at CommonSpirit hospitals in southern and eastern Oregon. ONA’s mission is to advocate for nursing, quality health care and healthy communities. For more information visit: www.OregonRN.org.