Nurses give Community Medical until Wednesday to audit payroll issues or face lawsuit

Payroll disrupted by ransomware attack, but nurses say promised resolution hasn’t happened

By: - January 24, 2022 5:17 pm

Community Medical Center pictured on January 17, 2021.

Nurses at one of the largest medical centers in the state are giving Community Medical Center until Wednesday at 1 p.m., to agree to a third-party auditor who can help untangle payroll issues, including missing pay from more than 250 nurses there. If the organization in Missoula does not agree to third-party auditors by then, attorneys Nate McConnell and Raph Graybill said they will file suit in court to get the pay owed to the nurses.

The issue stems from a worldwide ransomware attack on payroll software company, Kronos. Hackers held the data from payroll systems hostage, causing many companies, and organizations to rely on paper timecards and other manual calculations.

However, the for-profit Community Medical Center told more than 250 nurses there that payroll issues would not be resolved for nearly a month, leaving nearly two months of unpaid or underpaid nurses. Montana Nurses Association stepped into negotiate earlier this month, after nurses at Community Medical were told that it could be weeks before the pay would be corrected. The nurses estimated the back pay in total easily topped six figures. After pressure, hospital officials agreed to correct some issues, while remaining vague about which pay would be delayed.

According to Montana Nurses chief executive Vicky Byrd, many nurses who worked overtime, extra shifts or even during the holidays to take care of patients with COVID were among those affected.

Executives for CMC had previously stated that most of the pay issues would be resolved by Jan. 22, but on Monday, a letter from the nurses’ attorneys said that promises by CMC leadership have not been met.

“The supplemental checks promised by CMC have not been issued to all nurses,” the letter said. “Many remain severely underpaid, amounts that are now in the thousands of dollars.”

Officials did not immediately respond to calls by the Daily Montanan for comment.

The letter to Community Medical’s attorney in Atlanta also said that paychecks contained multiple errors, some with numbers transposed, which now have complicated the issues.

“The nurses at CMC have no confidence in the organization’s ability to account accurately for the past underpayments or mispayments,” the letter stated.

The nurses group is proposing having a third-party auditor check the entries and help figure out the amounts owed to 257 nurses.

“Until CMC compensates its nurses accurately going forward and rectifies its severe underpayments looking backward, CMC remains in clear violation of Montana wage law,” the letter stated.

The attorneys representing the nurses said they have their claims prepared and will file at 1 p.m., Wednesday if CMC does not agree to a third-party auditor.

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming. With Darrell at the helm, the Gazette staff took Montana’s top newspaper award six times in seven years. Darrell's books include writing the historical chapters of “Billings Memories” Volumes I-III, and “It Happened in Minnesota.” He has taught journalism at Winona State University and Montana State University-Billings, and has served on the student publications board of the University of Wyoming.