Oregon nurses urge district attorney to investigate Providence for alleged 'wage theft'

The Oregon Nurses Association has asked the Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt to investigate Providence for alleged "ongoing wage theft" against front-line nurses and other healthcare workers. 

Providence, a 52-hospital system based in Renton, Wash., provides services in Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington. The ONA represents about 4,000 registered nurses who work at 10 Providence hospitals and facilities in Oregon.

Union members are accusing Providence of systematically underpaying workers.

"Providence has systematically, and seemingly with intent to avoid payment for services, underpaid nonsalaried healthcare workers since at least July 8, 2022," the ONA wrote in a Nov. 28 letter to Mr. Schmidt's office. "These events occurred when Providence adopted a new Genesis HR Solutions payroll platform. The new Genesis payroll system failure led to lost pay and benefits for healthcare workers in Multnomah County and across the country. Many front-line healthcare workers in Multnomah County have not received appropriate differentials or overtime payments from Providence. It has been reported to ONA that some workers have not been paid for the hours they worked, and some have missed entire paychecks."

In a statement shared with Becker's, Providence ackowledged and apologized for recent paycheck discrepancies, but denied allegations of "theft" or intentional "systematic underpayment" of workers.

The union's letter comes after Mr. Schmidt's office signed an agreement with Oregon's Bureau of Labor and Industries last spring to investigate and prosecute corporate wage theft. Union members also filed a class-action lawsuit in August over the issue and estimate that lost wages and penalties could be in the millions. Additionally, the ONA contends that workers have filed tens of thousands of payroll tickets regarding lost and inaccurate pay, and that Providence in response has closed many pay tickets and notified workers it fixed the problem, only to underpay nurses again.

The union told the district attorney's office that the events of recent months may establish a prima facie case of theft of services.

Providence said it has resolved the majority of issues and provided retroactive pay via a "fast pay" program implemented in September.

However, "Providence ministries recognize that some errors are continuing to occur, and remain acutely aware of the hardship this creates for caregivers and their families," the health system said.  

Providence also said it is reviewing the union's letter to the district attorney's office and that the issue "is a case of complex pay structures across the Providence family of organizations, as well as the growing pains of implementing a new technology platform to support administrative functions and services.

"Ultimately, the new system, Genesis, will make it easier for caregivers to get information and manage changes from any device at any time. Until then, we remain absolutely committed to addressing issues to ensure caregivers receive correct and timely pay. We remain deeply grateful to all of our caregivers for all they do on behalf of our communities and the patients we serve."

To read the union's full letter, click here.

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