March 20, 2023

ONA Nurses File Class Action Lawsuit Against CommonSpirit Hospitals For Withholding Wages

ONA Nurses File Class Action Lawsuit Against CommonSpirit Hospitals For Withholding Wages

CommonSpirit Health, the second-largest nonprofit hospital system in the U.S., is being sued in a class action lawsuit by members of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). Mercy Medical Center in Roseburg and the St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, two of CommonSpirit’s 140 hospitals, are being accused of withholding wages from healthcare workers. 

Over 500 healthcare workers, represented by the ONA, say that CommonSpirit still owes the employees wages that weren’t paid last year. The class action lawsuit is seeking to recover unpaid wages and damages and “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,” ONA said in a press release. “In the pay periods following the outage, CommonSpirit significantly underpaid many nurses and allied health workers while also claiming it overpaid certain workers.”

While hundreds of nurses have been affected, LaRae Ernst, a registered nurse at Mercy Medical Center, was threatened to be sent to collections over overpaid wages. Initially overpaid in October 2022, thousands of dollars were withheld from her paychecks. Then she was allegedly threatened to be sent to collections.

“I clock in with the expectation that I’m going to get paid for my work, my experience, my education,” Ernst said. “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 anymore about this.”

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CommonSpirit Cyberattack 

According to the ONA, CommonSpirit experienced a cyberattack in October 2022. Due to a breach in patients’ personal health information, the IT department has to shut down different systems including electronic timekeeping systems. Following the cyberattack, CommonSpirit underpaid nurses and allied health workers but also claimed to overpay certain workers. 

Once the error was discovered, CommonSpirit allegedly withheld employees’ earnings from future paychecks. According to reports, “one Mercy nurse allegedly getting paid $0 after working 67 hours in a pay period.”

CommonSpirit is currently being sued by multiple patients after being accused of not implementing basic data security measures to protect patient health information. Over 623,000 people had their data breached according to records. 

Alternative Options Were Attempted

The ONA claims the lawsuit was a last resort after CommonSpirit refused to discuss the allegations of overpayment and underpayment. In December 2022, over 370 nurses and healthcare workers at the two hospitals signed a petition to hospital management and senior officials for the health system demanding answers.  

Around the same time, employees met with hospital administrators asking for an independent audit of employees’ timecards but were denied. 

The class action lawsuit was filed in Marion County Circuit Court. The plaintiffs (nurses and other healthcare workers) “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.” 


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