Surgical Care Affiliates, United Surgical Partners International, Others Sued in “No-Poach” Antitrust Class Action

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – The Joseph Saveri Law Firm has filed an antitrust class action complaint against Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) and United Surgical Partners International (USPI), alleging these companies entered into agreements not to compete for one another’s senior-level employees. These so-called “no-poach” agreements enabled these companies to avoid paying competitive wages to retain their senior-staff. The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago, Illinois.

The lawsuit is brought by a former employee of SCA on behalf of a proposed class of all senior-level employees of these companies (at minimum, “Director” and above) between May 2010 and July 2017, when the agreements were allegedly in effect. SCA, which is owned by United Healthgroup, Inc., is one of the largest providers of outpatient surgery in the United States with over 230 medical care facilities nationwide. USPI is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corporation and owns and operates over 550 outpatient and other medical facilities, employs 110,000 people, partners with approximately 5,000 physicians, and serves 10 million patients annually across 28 states.

In labor markets, workers benefit from a competitive environment: Ideally, employers compete against one another to hire employees who have the training and skills to enhance the employers’ services and brands, resulting in higher compensation and benefits for those employees. In contrast, unlawful no-poach agreements suppress wages for employees who might have sought better opportunities with competing employers but were not hired due to the conspiracy. These no-poach agreements further limit compensation for all senior-level health care employees—even those who did not seek other job opportunities—because companies adhere to a policy of internal equity, generally compensating workers of similar titles and job descriptions equally.

In January, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted SCA for these anticompetitive agreements. In its indictment, the DOJ alleged SCA conspired with other health care companies to suppress competition for senior-level employees in violation of federal antitrust laws. The DOJ is pursuing criminal charges, separate from civil liability that SCA and its co-conspirators may face from employees affected by its anticompetitive conduct.

“When companies engage in these unlawful agreements, they effectively suppress wages for workers across the entire industry. Instead of competing with other firms to retain employees by offering higher wages and better benefits, these companies denied their employees access to a better life and the right to be paid the true value of their skills and talent,” says Joseph Saveri, counsel for the Plaintiff.

The case is Spradling v. Surgical Care Affiliates, LLC, case number 21-cv-01324, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.