Nurse sues over wages on behalf of thousands of employees against Providence

The lawsuit claims that Oregon’s largest hospital system has underpaid employees who are not on salary since a new payroll system went into effect

By: - August 16, 2022 5:35 am

Providence operates eight hospitals in Oregon, including Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Southwest Portland. (Providence Health & Services)

A nurse sued Providence Health & Services, Oregon’s largest hospital system, on Monday accusing the company of willfully underpaying thousands of employees.

The suit was brought by Jamie Aguilar, a Providence nurse and member of the Oregon Nurses Association, and filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court. It seeks class action status. The association said Providence employs 10,000 in Oregon, including 4,000 nurses in the union, and that 200 had signed on to the suit.

The complaint alleges Providence has underpaid nonsalaried employees since last month, when it switched to a Genesis HR Solutions payroll system. Paychecks have not included the proper rates, overtime, bonuses, all hours worked, higher payments for certain shifts or certifications, according to the complaint. It also said that deductions and withholding amounts were not correct, among other things.

The lawsuit coincides with a pay dispute between employees and the St. Charles Health System, which operates hospitals in Bend, Prineville and Madras. The company is asking employees to repay $2 million they were overpaid. Employees maintain the hospital system has not proved the overpayments, according to news reports.

In the case Monday, the lawsuit said Providence should have known paychecks would be wrong and properly vetted the system before going live.

“It would be a problem if this happened to a handful of workers,” Richard Botterill, the Oregon Nurses Association executive committee chair at Providence Portland Medical Center, said in a statement. “This is an out-and-out disaster. 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.” 

The suit seeks back pay and damages for all nonsalaried employees. 

While the exact amount of theft is too large to determine without a comprehensive audit, lost wages and penalties could be in the millions,” the association said. 

In a statement, Providence acknowledged underpayments following its adoption of the Genesis system.

“Providence apologizes to its caregivers and their families who have been affected by recent paycheck issues,” said Gary Walker, a Providence spokesman. “We take these issues incredibly seriously and we are working daily to identify and resolve reported issues. 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.”

Providence operates eight hospitals in Oregon and multiple clinics. It also offers hospice care and other services. If the court were to grant class action status for the suit, all class members would participate in any settlement or court-determined damages.

Concerns for months

The association said it had expressed concerns about the new payroll system months ago. Providence said it had thoroughly tested the system, the association said. Yet, the union said, employees have filed 90,000 complaints about errors. 

“Nurses and workers have now gone more than three full pay periods without a comprehensive resolution,” the union said.  

The association demanded that Providence:

  • Reinstate the prior payroll system as a backup to ensure payroll records are accurate.
  • Conduct a comprehensive audit of all time card records since the implementation of the Genesis payroll system to determine and correct all improper wage deductions and restore any lost benefits, including potential lost paid time off.
  • Pay direct and indirect damages to all workers affected by Providence’s improper wage deductions, including but not limited to banking overdraft fees, fines for missed rent or mortgage payments and credit card late payment penalties.

Walker said in the statement that fewer than 2% of Providence employees still have incorrect paychecks, in particular for premium pay.

“These remaining issues are being resolved as quickly as possible,” Walker said. “Oregon Nurses Association’s suggestions that Providence is “robbing workers” and intentionally underpaying its caregivers are completely and utterly false.”

 

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Lynne Terry
Lynne Terry

Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.

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