Nurses File Class-Action Wage Theft Suit Against Providence

Oregon Nurse's Association
ONA nurses form a picket line during collective bargaining with Kaiser Permanente in June.

Providence says it’s handling the paycheck shortfalls, which stem from its migration to a new payroll system

Share this article!

More than 200 nurses have signed onto a class-action lawsuit against Providence St. Joseph Health Monday, saying the hospital system’s shift to a “faulty payroll system” has shortchanged providers.

According to a press release from the Oregon Nurses Association, an ONA member leader filed the suit Monday, and more than 200 members have provided notice of intent to seek monetary damages, including back pay. The legal complaint says the case affects “thousands of employees” at Providence.

In July, Providence migrated to a new payroll system called Genesis which, according to the ONA, “systematically underpaid” nurses and other frontline health care workers. The lawsuit alleges that the Genesis system has led to lost wages and benefits, unpaid hours; unpaid overtime; unpaid differentials; unpaid certification pay; and other lost hours and benefits.

The complaint says Providence “knew, or should have known, in advance of implementing Genesis that employees would be systemically underpaid.” It says the company activated Genesis without verifying all employees would be paid accurately, that it did not activate the system on a rolling basis first to ensure correct payment of wages — and that it did not conduct adequate testing of Genesis before it went live.

“We have had some nurses who have been missing a few dimes and dollars, we have other nurses who put in two weeks of work and didn’t get paid,” Kevin Mealy communications manager for the Oregon Nurses Association, tells Oregon Business. “This is a systemic issue, and we expect the next cycle of paychecks will be off as well.”

Since the migration, Mealy says nurses have filed over 90,000 tickets with Providence’s payroll division concerning lost wages over three pay periods.

In conjunction with the employee’s lawsuit, the ONA has filed grievances at 10 Providence care facilities, demanding the health care provider return to reinstate its original payroll system as a backup to ensure payroll accuracy, conduct a comprehensive audit of its Genesis payroll system, and pay all direct and indirect damages to all affected workers, including banking overdraft fees, fines for missed rent or mortgage payments and credit card late payment penalties.

“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,” ONA executive committee chair at Providence Portland Medical Center Richard Botterill, said in the press release.

Providence issued a press release of its own where it acknowledged the issues with the Genesis payroll system, and said the company is running off-cycle paycheck batches daily, with the correct retroactive pay.

The company says fewer than 2% of Providence caregivers in Oregon are getting errant paychecks, specifically related what it describes as “pay differentials and premium pay.”

The press release describes the ONA’s categorization of Providence as “robbing workers” and intentionally underpaying caregivers as “completely and utterly false.”

Mealy says Providence has acknowledged the existence of the payroll issue, but that the huge number of discrepancies show the payroll errors are systemic, and should be addressed by the employer.

“I think Providence has recognized there’s a problem, but we are far apart in what see as an acceptable solution. We think this issue must be addressed by Providence, not by each individual worker having to catch every single error,” says Mealy.

The ONA says nurses who do not join the lawsuit will still benefit from any settlement reached with the healthcare provider. While the exact amount of theft is too large to determine without a comprehensive audit, the ONA estimates lost wages and penalties could likely amount to millions of dollars.

Providence St. Joseph Health is a not-for-profit health care system that operates in seven states, with 10 facilities in Oregon. ONA says hundreds of nurses and other frontline workers at all 10 facilities have been negatively impacted by the payroll change.

To subscribe to Oregon Business, click here.