Montana hospital responds to underpayment allegations

Community Medical Center in Missoula, Mont., said it is disappointed about a lawsuit filed by workers claiming that they were underpaid, particularly because the issue stems from a ransomware attack with Kronos Enterprise System, a third-party vendor.

The response came after the class-action lawsuit was filed Feb. 16 in the Montana 4th Judicial District Court.

The workers allege that Community Medical Center has issued inaccurate paychecks to them since Dec. 12, 2021, that underpaid them based on the number of hours they have worked since then. 

More specifically, the lawsuit alleges that on or about Dec. 11, 2021, the hospital instructed some or all its employees to begin tracking their time manually. Workers allege that employees followed those instructions but that the hospital did not use the timecards to determine the amount on employees' paychecks. 

"Instead, CMC made the decision to issue employees, including plaintiffs, their paychecks in the amount of their last paycheck before Dec. 12, 2021," according to the lawsuit. 

In a statement shared with Becker's, the hospital linked the issues to its cloud-based timekeeping platform Kronos Enterprise System, which went down nationwide because of a ransomware issue on the national Kronos system. 

Megan Condra, a spokesperson for Community Medical Center, said the hospital learned of the attack in December 2021 and subsequently implemented manual data entry to ensure employees were paid for their regular hours. 

"Every employee continued to be paid every pay cycle as we worked through this unfortunate situation," she added. "In some instances, employees were overpaid and in other instances they were underpaid — largely resulting from delayed pay premiums and differentials. We also worked individually with employees who worked additional hours beyond their regular schedule to supplement their extra earnings as quickly as possible."

The hospital was able to regain access to the Kronos system in late January. At that time, facility timekeepers started the reconciliation process going back to the initial affected pay period, which was recently completed, Ms. Condra said.

"Since this process was completed, we know of no employee who has been underpaid by thousands of dollars as alleged," she said. "In fact, at this point, it appears there may be at least as many overpayments as there are underpayments, a fact that is conveniently ignored in these ongoing and disappointing allegations."

Ms. Condra said steps are underway to address any remaining pay discrepancies, and the hospital has pledged that it will engage an independent auditor to review and validate the accuracy of the payroll reconciliation process. The hospital expects the review to begin in the next 30 days, depending on auditor availability, she said. 

The Montana Nurses Association, which is not a plaintiff in the lawsuit but represents nurses at Community Medical Center, told Becker's the union will continue to support nurses and looks forward to them getting correct payment.

Community Medical Center is owned by Brentwood, Tenn.-based LifePoint Health.

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