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Cerner Embroiled in Lawsuits over Employee Wage Disputes

Several lawsuits have emerged that claim EHR vendor Cerner has not properly paid some employees for overtime work.

By Jacqueline LaPointe

Cerner Corporation, a leading EHR vendor, has allegedly neglected to pay employees for overtime hours, according to a KCUR 89.3 report.

A Cerner employee has recently filed a class-action lawsuit against the healthcare technology company in Kansas City. The lawsuit states that delivery consultants in the application management services department were reportedly expected to work 48 works at week, but were never paid overtime wages. The workers act as help desk personnel, providing technical support and troubleshooting help.

The employee also claims that Cerner has failed to pay overtime wages to thousands of other employees, even to some who are no longer at the company. 

Through the class-action lawsuit, the employee is seeking undisclosed damages after citing that Cerner violated the Fair Labor Standards Act and Missouri’s overtime law.

“Cerner’s employees, including entry level and non-technical employees, are entitled to all the pay they worked hard to earn,” said Eric Dirks, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, to The Kansas City Star. “Missouri businesses have an obligation to pay their employees fairly and must comply with federal and state labor laws. The employees we represent worked many overtime hours for which they were never paid. We look forward to helping these workers recover the wages they have already earned.”

While Cerner has not released a comment about the recent class-action lawsuit, KCUR 89.3 reported that the health IT company has previously said that these type of employees are “computer professionals” and “administrative employees,” who do not fall under the overtime regulations in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

This is also not the first allegation that Cerner has not accurately paid employees, according to the radio station.

Cerner is currently involved in two pending lawsuits in Missouri. Both respectively accuse Cerner of not paying overtime wages to workers who train customers on how to use Cerner products and employees who set up user profiles for Cerner’s hospitals and other customers.

In another pending case in Kansas City’s federal court, employees claim that Cerner did not properly compensate its nonexempt workers, who are required by law to be paid overtime for any additional hours worked after 40 hours a week. The employees report that Cerner pays its nonexempt employees a pay period late and does not calculate additional compensation at the employee’s regular pay rate.

Recently, the pending federal case was officially classified as a collective action under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Unlike a class-action lawsuit, plaintiffs must choose to participate rather than being automatically included in the case.

Approximately 850 Cerner employees are qualified to join the lawsuit.

“I think this order is significant in that it might get Cerner to actually take some responsibility, but it’s not a surprising ruling,” said Tracey George, the lawyer for the collective lawsuit, in a previous statement to KCUR 89.3 regarding the collection action case. “It’s 100 percent consistent with the law; it’s what we expected and the court got it right. It’s more significant to us in getting Cerner to come around and realize that there are consequences for trying to save money and take that from your employees’ pocket.”

Additionally, KCUR 89.3 noted that Cerner has recently taken steps to protect itself from similar lawsuits. About 17,000 of its employees were asked to sign an agreement that stated workers will arbitrate any labor disputes rather than sue the company in court.

Cerner stipulated that all workers who did not sign the agreement were not eligible for merit-based raises. The majority of Cerner’s employees agreed to sign.

However, employees in the federal case will not be impacted by the recent agreement to arbitrate since the lawsuit was filed before the employees signed.

The lawsuits come months after Cerner was identified as the top international EHR vendor in a KLAS report in December 2015. The report stated that Cerner’s EHR systems were the most popular globally because of its easy-to-use structure, general functionality, and flexibility with contracting.

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