Nurses at Providence Launch Class-Action Lawsuit For Unpaid Wages

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Providence Health & Services faces a class-action lawsuit that alleges nurses and other employees at Oregon’s largest health care provider are losing wages because of a new, flawed payroll system.

The lawsuit PDF iconwas filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court Monday by Jamie Aguilar, a home health and hospice nurse for Providence Health & Services. The Oregon Nurses Association, which represents nurses throughout the Providence system, said more than 200 of its members have provided notice of their intent to seek damages, including back pay, through the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit alleges that Providence Health & Services did not address problems after its new payroll went online in early July and employees raised concerns with their bosses. The class-action lawsuit potentially involves thousands of health care workers. Providence Health & Services has more than 10,000 employees at hospitals and clinics across the state – and the nurses union represents about 4,000 of them.

The lawsuit alleges Providence failed to adequately test the system before it went online and that the provider knew or should have known that problems would emerge. Pay problems for employees include payment of incorrect wage rates, missing work hours from paychecks, missing or late paychecks, absent or incomplete overtime wages, inaccurate reductions from employee’s paid-time off and unpaid bonuses.

“Plaintiff and numerous employees have found errors in their pay,” the lawsuit says. “Some employees have been able to identify how they were underpaid. Other employees have concluded they were underpaid but have no reasonable way to identify how exactly they were underpaid and the amounts owed.”

Gary Walker, a spokesperson for Providence Health & Services, in a statement to The Lund Report, said it “apologizes to its caregivers and their families who have been affected by recent paycheck issues.”

“We take these issues incredibly seriously and we are working daily to identify and resolve reported issues,” the statement said. “To ensure our caregivers are kept whole during this unfortunate disruption, we are running off-cycle paycheck batches daily as needed, with the correct retroactive pay.”

The allegations don’t pinpoint an amount of money. The nurses union, in its release, said an audit would be necessary to know the full impact, though it could be in the millions of dollars.

The lawsuit said the errors have “caused significant disruption and annoyance” for employees, who cannot rely upon their paid-time off on the books and have spent time trying to confirm the accuracy of their pay.

The lawsuit seeks a court order that requires the health care provider to conduct an accounting of the wages owed employees and to pay them. The lawsuit also wants a court order that requires the provider to either repair or replace the new payroll system.

Nurses Union: ‘Out-and-out disaster’

The Oregon Nurses Association, in its statement, said the impact for individual workers ranges from a few dollars to entire missing paychecks.

The union said nurses and other workers have seen problems for three full pay periods without a resolution to date. Providence managers assured nurses the problems would be quickly resolved, the union said, but that hasn’t happened yet.

“This is an out-and-out disaster,” said registered nurse Richard Botterill, chair of the union’s executive committee at Providence Portland Medical Center, in a statement. “Providence is paying frontline nurses and health care workers pennies on the dollar and keeping the difference. This is a multi-billion dollar company cheating nurses and working families out of their hard-earned livelihoods. Robbing workers of the money they rely on for food, rent and basic needs is unacceptable. It’s a simple solution. Providence needs to pay frontline health care workers the money they’ve earned.” 

Walker, the Providence spokesperson, said the new payroll system, called “Genesis,” was put in place to streamline administrative work for payroll, human resources and timekeeping. Walker said less than 2% of Providence employees continue to experience incorrect pay and those issues are being addressed as quickly as possible.

Walker said the union’s “suggestions that Providence is ‘robbing workers’ and intentionally underpaying its caregivers are completely and utterly false.”

“Again, we deeply regret that some valued caregivers, and their families, have had to bear any financial hardship, anxiety or disruption as a result of this transition,” Walker said. “As an employer, providing accurate and timely pay for caregivers’ time and talents is one of the most fundamental roles we play.”

In addition to the suit, Providence nurses have filed grievances about the issue, according to the union. They request:

  • Reinstatement of the prior payroll system as a backup to ensure accurate pay.
  • A comprehensive audit of all time card records since the new system started.
  • Direct payments to employees to cover lost wages and indirect damages, such as banking overdraft fees and fines for missed or late payment on rent, mortgages and credit cards.

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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