Cooper Health System, US Department of Labor reach agreement to settle hiring, pay discrimination allegations

Camden, N.J.-based Cooper Health System and the U.S. Department of Labor have entered into a conciliation agreement to resolve alleged hiring and compensation discrimination at a teaching hospital and biomedical research facility. 

From July 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2017, Cooper Health System allegedly discriminated against 64 female, Black and Hispanic applicants for per diem nurse positions and 337 individuals employed in supervisor, nursing and administrative positions by paying them less than comparable male and white employees, the USDOL said in a Nov. 21 news release. 

Cooper Health System agreed to pay $625,000, including $514,463 in back pay and $110,536 in interest, to the affected candidates, according to the release. It also agreed to take steps to ensure its personnel and compensation practices — including recordkeeping and internal auditing — meet legal requirements. 

"When an employer accepts a federal contract, they must ensure equal opportunity in its hiring practices and pay their workers their full legally earned wages and benefits," Diana Sen, northeast regional director of the USDOL's office of federal contract compliance programs, said in the release. "This agreement will have a lasting impact on Cooper Health System's workforce and sets a standard for the industry."

Thomas Rubino, Cooper University Health Care's senior vice president of communications, told Becker's Hospital Review that the settlement was a business decision to avoid spending millions of dollars on further legal proceedings rather than patient care. 

"[The] OFCCP's preliminary findings were based on a statistical analysis of data that was nearly seven-years-old," Mr. Rubino said in an email shared with Becker's. "We could not disprove these preliminary findings because seven years ago records related to recruitment and promotions were manually maintained and some were missing. Cooper now has new, state-of-the-art electronic recordkeeping systems in place."

The health system also said that its workforce is made up of 75 percent women and 40 percent minorities. In the last eighteen months, 50 percent of promotions at Cooper Health System were earned by minority team members, according to the system.

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