UPMC is facing a class-action lawsuit filed by a respiratory therapist who claims she was misclassified as an independent contractor when she worked at the health system’s Harrisburg hospital in 2022.
- The suit, filed last week in an Allegheny County court, claims the therapist should have been classified as an employee and paid overtime when she worked more than 40 hours in a week.
- The lawsuit, which also names a staffing vendor, St. Louis-based VeloSource, seeks back pay and other damages.
- At least 40 other respiratory therapists for UPMC in Pennsylvania are in the same situation, the lawsuit alleges.
- Efforts to reach UPMC, VeloSource and an attorney for the plaintiff were not successful.
What’s the claim: That the therapist, D’Nay Nnaka, and others may have been classified as independent contractors but that they were essentially employees of Pittsburgh-based UPMC.
- A UPMC executive set their work schedules, the health system had them sign off on its policies and procedures, and the therapists operated under the “direction and control” of UPMC doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, the lawsuit alleges.
- But because they were considered independent contractors, the therapists were not paid overtime.
- Nnaka, who was paid a flat rate of $115 per hour, worked more than 50 hours per week on several occasions, according to the lawsuit.
- The alleged failure to pay overtime for those hours is a violation of the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act, the lawsuit argues.
The background: Misclassification has been a focus for Pennsylvania policymakers since at least 2022, when a state-sponsored report found a growing use of independent contractors in a range of industries.
- A state law called Act 72 explicitly bars misclassification in one industry: construction.
- The report recommended expanding the law’s reach to other sectors and increasing penalties for violations, which has led to legislation on the penalty side.
- The claims against UPMC are rooted in a different law, the state’s minimum wage act.
- In arguing that the therapists should be considered employees, not contractors, the lawsuit cites factors considered in previous court cases.
- They include the degree of control exercised by the employer and the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss based on managerial skill.