Interviews with employees of OHSU’s Rehabilitation Services Department have raised concerns about staffing, patient care, and pervasive contract and labor law violations. In addition issues of internal equity and managerial ethics were also raised. This is the first in a series of reports on these allegations.
All names will be kept confidential in these reports, though more specific information has been shared with OHSU Human Resources and will continue to be shared as we develop it. For now, we are attempting to work with OHSU as we did in the EVS cases, but should grievances and other legal actions become necessary we won’t hesitate to pursue them.
Health Care Benefits
Local 328 Staff were initially contacted by employees who were concerned that they were being unethically denied full time health care benefits by Rehab Services management. According to our union contract there are four classes of represented employees at OHSU – regular FTE employees, relief employees, flex employees, and limited duration employees. In addition, regular FTE employees may be full or part time.
Flex employees do not get health care benefits. Relief employees receive health care benefits based on the number of hours they’ve worked in the previous six months.
Limited duration and regular FTE employees receive health care benefits based on their FTE. LD and Regular FTE employees who are .75 FTE or higher receive full benefits with the maximum employer contribution. Employees between .5 and .75 FTE receive part time benefits which provide the same health plan but with a significantly lower employer contribution, and therefore a much higher out of pocket premium cost for employees.
For the last few years Rehab Services Management has frequently hired therapists as .5 employees, with the notice that extra shifts may be available to be worked. In fact, for many employees those extra shifts were not only available but expected and that extra work resulted in several “part time” employees working full time hours for indefinite periods of time without full time health care benefits. Some employees raised concerns surrounding this without any action from management. Others felt that even though they were losing significant money on their health care benefits, they might face retaliation by losing their extra shifts if they protested about the loss of benefits.
We were given one example of a member who was initially hired on as a flex position in 2015 and was told the flex position would be a way to track hours worked and validate the need for more FTE in the pediatric rehab setting. Her position soon changed to relief and she was able to accrue full time benefits. In September 2017, a .95 employee changed to a .8, making a .15 FTE position available. The relief employee was told if she wanted to maintain her seniority and hours worked, she would have to take the .15 FTE position, otherwise a new hire would have seniority and likely take her hours. In October 2017 she took the .15 FTE out of fear of losing hours worked and routinely worked 30 to 40 hours a week for a year without health care benefits.
Another example is an employee who was a .5 FTE and worked for over a year full time. He requested to receive an increase in his FTE as he needed full time benefits for him and his family. He was told no by management and recently quit to work for Shriners where he now receives full time health care benefits.
Some quotes from union members we interviewed:
“I was hired for Saturday/Sunday and always worked more than that”
“People are being hired under the pretense that these are part time jobs and know they are going to work you more than that and not give you benefits.”
“They don’t hire people with experience because they cost more. They hire new grads because they are cheaper and will put up with not getting benefits.”
“They create unsustainable positions – for example sat/sun only with 10 hours shifts – only desperate people take these jobs and they don’t stay.”
The number of employees working consistently over their FTE has been reduced recently, but for many, in the previous few years, they have lost hundreds of dollars per month in healthcare benefits beginning the day they were hired, with full knowledge by management that they would be routinely expected to work extra shifts. Rehab management frequently frames full time benefits as a privilege and not as a benefit for actual hours worked.
OHSU must end the practice of unethically hiring employees as part time and then working them full time in order to save money on employee health care benefits and must further end the unethical practice of keeping employees who have a demonstrated history of working full time hours listed as part time FTE. It is, perhaps, excusable to hire an employee and not anticipate the number of hours they will actually have to work, it’s an intentional and unethical act to keep them working for months or years in excess of their FTE and not upgrade their FTE status with full knowledge of the negative impact this is having on employee health care benefits.
Next Article: Pervasive Wage and Hour Violations In Rehab Services