- Four Illinois nurses have filed a federal class action lawsuit against Ascension Health, alleging that the system failed to pay correct wage amounts while the defendants were employed at Ascension’s Illinois-based Saint Joseph hospital.
- The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Illinois last week, pointed to Ascension’s cost-cutting practices more broadly, claiming that the Missouri-based nonprofit Catholic health system engages in “a variety of improper cost-cutting practices” in order to maximize its revenue and executive compensation, despite having $18 billion in cash reserves.
- The class action suit comes after The New York Times reported that Ascension had spent years cutting its staffing levels in an effort to trim costs before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The class action lawsuit, citing the NYT report, alleges that Ascension’s “improper” cost-cutting measures, including cutting its nursing staff by 23% over the past five years, led to complex nurse payment structures as the health system attempted to incentivize nurses to “work longer hours to make up for the staff shortages.”
The lawsuit alleges that as a result the defendant nurses, all former and current employees at Joliet, Illinois-based Ascension Saint Joseph, experienced “regular and repeated” compensation errors, which Ascension did not contest but still failed to pay.
The undercompensation is “systemic” and may have impacted “dozens, perhaps hundreds,” of hospital employees, according to the lawsuit.
Ascension failed to compensate one of the lawsuit’s defendants, former interventional radiology nurse Desiree Lehr, over $2,000 in incentive shift pay, in addition to another $762.50 that was discovered during the course of the lawsuit investigation, according to the suit.
Another defendant, a current psychiatric nurse at Ascension, has still failed to receive her contractually obligated raise intended to go into effect July 11, 2022, according to the suit.
In a statement to Healthcare Dive, a spokesperson for Ascension said that the system recently became aware of the litigation and was looking into the issues raised.
“We pride ourselves on paying every associate a fair wage,” the spokesperson said.
The federal lawsuit is the latest spotlight on the nation’s hospitals, especially nonprofits, as systems reckon with dismal financial outlooks heading into this year.
In September, the NYT reported another investigation, which found that one of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, Providence Health, routinely pressured patients into paying their medical bills — even if they were eligible for financial assistance.