Skip to main content

Alleged wage theft from nurses at CommonSpirit hospitals in Oregon sparks lawsuit

Union members say underpayments at Mercy Medical in Roseburg and St. Anthony in Pendleton followed a ransomware attack
Nurses and health care workers at St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton. | COURTESY OREGON NURSES ASSOCIATION
March 9, 2023

The Oregon Nurses Association is drawing attention to complaints alleging that CommonSpirirt Health, the owner of Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg as well as St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, underpaid nurses.

Members of the nurses union — Larae Ernst, Jennifer Najera and Amanda Smith — filed a class action lawsuit Feb. 17 in Marion County Circuit Court, alleging that after an “IT outage” from a ransomware attack last October affected its information and payroll systems, CommonSpirit unlawfully withheld wages based on unverified estimates of overpayments that were erroneously calculated.

“Defendant’s conduct has caused significant disruption, annoyance, and hardship,” according to the suit, which said the problems will become worse as tax filings become due.

CommonSpirit did not respond to The Lund Report’s request for comment on the suit.

According to a March 8 announcement by the nurses association, the payment errors at the hospitals 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.”

More than 370 members of the nurses union who work at Mercy Medical Center and St. Anthony Hospital signed a petition demanding action from hospital managers in December, according to the union. 

Among other things, workers asked for documentation of overpayments as well as an independent audit.

The announcement quoted an article in the News-Review that described Ernst’s experience.

“I clock in with the expectation that I’m going to get paid for my work, my experience, my education,” Ernst told the newspaper, saying the system incorrectly withheld thousands of dollars from her checks and threatened to send her 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.” 

CommonSpirit ranks as the third largest hospital system in the country, according to Becker’s Hospital Review.

The system already faces a different lawsuit over the ransomware attack, saying it exposed the data of more than 600,000 people, according to Healthcare Dive.

You can reach Nick Budnick at [email protected] or at @NickBudnick on Twitter.