Pennsylvania Healthcare System and Hospital Sued Over No-Poach Agreement

Three registered nurses have filed an antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday in the Middle District of Pennsylvania against Geisinger Health (Geisinger) and Evangelical Community Hospital (Evangelical) for allegedly and illegally agreeing not to recruit or “poach” one another’s healthcare professionals. The plaintiffs claim that the no-poach agreement intentionally and successfully suppressed their job mobility and wages. The complaint follows an Aug. 5, 2020 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) civil action filed against the defendants to enjoin Geisinger’s partial acquisition of Evangelical.

The complaint explains that Geisinger is the largest health system in central Pennsylvania, employing about 32,000 workers, while Evangelical is central Pennsylvania’s largest independent community hospital, employing approximately 1,800 workers. The nurse plaintiffs contend that the defendants’ no-poach agreement has been in existence since at least May 2015.

Much like in the DOJ’s complaint, the plaintiffs here contend that the defendants have a history of collusion. They allege that the no-poach agreement was reached at the highest levels of their organizations, “through secretive verbal exchanges that were later confirmed by emails, which they agreed to conceal from outsiders, their respective employees who make up the proposed Class, and the public.”

Allegedly, the defendants’ senior executives repeatedly reaffirmed, monitored, and enforced their no-poach agreement. As evidence, the complaint points to an example. Reportedly, when Evangelical’s CEO learned that Geisinger may have recruited nurses, she wrote to her counterpart at Geisinger, asking, “Can you please ask that this stop[?] Very counter to what we are trying to accomplish.” In response, the Geisinger executive allegedly forwarded the email to Geisinger’s Vice President of Talent Acquisition, and directed her to “ask your staff to stop this activity with Evangelical.”

The complaint claims that the agreement is per se illegal under the Sherman Act and seeks injunctive relief and damages on behalf of a class of physicians, nurses, psychologists, therapists, and other healthcare professionals who worked at either Geisinger or Evangelical since May 2015.

The plaintiffs are represented by Berger Montague PC and Cotchett, Pitre & Mccarthy, LLP.