This legal win will make a world of difference to dozens of workers who were facing drastic deductions from their checks.
November 1, 2022
Seattle—On Oct. 14, a judge in King County Superior Court handed down an order that said MultiCare cannot deduct money from workers who were temporarily overpaid without an express agreement from the individual employee. The alleged overpayments related to an extended outage of the employer’s timekeeping system.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, UFCW 3000 and the Washington State Nurses Association filed suit against MultiCare after the healthcare system announced it had overpaid workers and was going to recover the overpayments by deducting amounts of their choosing from subsequent paychecks without the permission of the worker. The unions argued the law didn’t permit MultiCare to do that. The court agreed with the unions, and MultiCare was ordered to stop deductions unless it had an agreement with the individual member.
The Washington State Nurses Association, SEIU Healthcare 1199NW and UFCW 3000 filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in March to prevent MultiCare Health System from garnishing wages without employees’ consent in order to recover alleged overpayments while the case made its way through the court system.
This legal win will make a world of difference to dozens of workers who were facing drastic deductions from their checks. It would have meant not being able to pay rent or mortgage or keep food on the table if MultiCare had been allowed to proceed with the deductions.
These legal actions are intended to ensure that employees have a fair, transparent, and collaborative process for establishing repayment plans, including an opportunity to challenge MultiCare’s accounting and have a say in their individual repayment plans. Under federal labor law, MultiCare must bargain with the unions to ensure a fair procedure for any repayments.
In December 2021, timekeeping software provider Kronos was hit by a ransomware attack, shutting the system down for many employers that use it. During the time Kronos was offline, MultiCare chose to duplicate employees’ last accurate timesheet for payroll purposes.
Employees continued to track hours separately outside of Kronos, but paychecks for four pay periods were based on the first pay period in December.
MultiCare knew from the start that this would result in inaccurate paychecks during the outage, as healthcare worker hours vary, sometimes significantly, week to week. Notably, the period of outage covered the worst months of the Omicron surge, during which employees saw significant upheaval in their schedules.
Following Kronos’ recovery, MultiCare announced that it would begin deducting up to $500 per paycheck without employee consent beginning March 18. MultiCare gave workers a March 9 deadline to request alternate payment plans but did not offer an option to repay by any means other than paycheck deductions, and the lowest amount offered was 10% of the amount allegedly owed per pay period. At the same time, MultiCare has not provided transparent accounting for its claimed overpayments (or underpayments), and numerous workers have reported inaccuracies in the accounting provided to them.
WSNA is the leading voice and advocate for nurses in Washington state, providing representation, education and resources that allow nurses to reach their full professional potential and focus on caring for patients. WSNA represents more than 18,000 registered nurses for collective bargaining who provide care in hospitals, clinics, schools and community and public health settings across the state.
SEIU Healthcare 1199NW is a union of nurses and healthcare workers with over 30,000 caregivers throughout hospitals, clinics, mental health, skilled home health and hospice programs in Washington state and Montana. SEIU Healthcare 1199NW’s mission is to advocate for quality care and good jobs for all.
UFCW 3000 is the largest union in Washington State with more than 50,000 members in Washington, northeastern Oregon, and northern Idaho, including 22,000 health care workers alongside other essential workers in grocery, retail, pharmacy, cannabis, food processing, and other industries. Our mission is building a powerful union that fights for economic, political and social justice in our workplaces and in our communities. Learn more at UFCW3000.org