St. Charles says it overpaid employees by $2M, seeks money back

St. Charles Health System in Bend, Ore., is asking employees to pay back roughly $2 million it says they received in overpayments, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Aug. 12.   

The health system is seeking the money after a December ransomware attack on human resources management company Ultimate Kronos Group. The attack affected the software platforms health systems and other companies use for scheduling, timekeeping, payroll and human resources. 

As a result, St. Charles was unable to access employee timecard data from Nov. 28 to Jan. 22, the health system said in a statement shared with Becker's

"During the outage, we did our best to pay people as accurately as possible for the time they workedbased on the hours they reported," St. Charles said. "One of the unfortunate impacts of the outage was that some of our employees were underpaid, and some were overpaid. Over the last several months, we have focused our efforts on making financially whole those employees who were underpaid. We're now at the point where we need to recoup the $2 million that was overpaid."

More specifically, St. Charles is asking 2,358 employees who were overpaid to repay the money, an average of about $780 per worker, St. Charles spokesperson Lisa Goodman said in an email to The Bulletin

A total of 1,784 people will owe $1,000 or less, and St. Charles is offering different payment options for workers, including a "payment plan, a lump sum payment or a reduction of earned time off (vacation time) to offset their balance owed," Ms. Goodman told the publication.

Scott Palmer, director of communications for the Oregon Nurses Association, which represents St. Charles nurses, said the amounts range from less than $100 to as much as $3,000 for some workers, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

He also said the union was set to issue a cease-and-desist letter to St. Charles on Aug. 12 so employees would stop receiving letters seeking repayment, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The union "will vigorously defend its members rights to be free from this unlawful activity," according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Bulletin. "The fact that St. Charles believes it made an error does not surprise anyone. St. Charles' use of unlawful debt collection demands against its employees to correct its own error is beyond the pale."

The union contends some workers did not find out about the alleged overpayments until Aug. 11. St. Charles argues that it has kept employees in the loop in recent months via emails and town hall meetings.

"While we recognize this is an inconvenience for our employees, we've communicated from the beginning that this is a step we’d eventually need to take," the health system said. "We have made every effort to keep our employees apprised of the situation."

St. Charles has been working to recover from financial strains. The health system announced in May it would lay off 105 caregivers and eliminate 76 vacant positions. In July, St. Charles also announced the elimination of two executive leadership positions. 

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