City says San Francisco archdiocese owes $3 million for overdue health fees

The San Francisco archdiocese owes nearly $3 million in past-due health care costs according to a notification issued by the City of San Francisco.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Jan. 29 that the the city informed the archdiocese on Jan. 18 that the archdiocese “must pay $2.93 million” to “1,086 past and present employees by Feb. 21” as well as $113,000 in penalties to come into compliance with the city's Health Care Security Ordinance.

That law requires businesses with more than 20 employees who work at least eight hours a week in San Francisco to make payments toward the workers’ health coverage, “either by providing insurance or by paying into a health care savings plan,” reported journalist Bob Egelko.

But, continued Egelko, “a city audit of archdiocese records from October 2009 through June 2016 found that the religious organization had failed to make payments for a majority of its 1,722 employees covered by the law.”

Michael Brown, archdiocesan communications director, however, described the situation as “a work in progress.”

“The city felt they had to issue their order last week, but we have been in discussions with them for months and these discussions continue and could continue past the current deadline for appeal,” Brown told NCR.

The archdiocese could appeal the decision to the city controller’s office and, if unsuccessful, go to court, reported the Chronicle.

“Many months ago,” Brown added, “our discussions were about the complexity of the Health Care Security Ordinance and what information did they really need and in what format. During that process we tried to help them understand the complexity of our operation, in three counties with 155 locations and 3,800 employees and with essentially de-centralized bookkeeping at all locations.”

Brown said the archdiocese is disputing the city's findings, notably the number of employees the city claims are covered by the healthcare law.

“While we don’t concede we are in violation, we also don’t believe that the numbers are correct and we are working in good faith with the city to find the right figures,” Brown said.

Pat Mulligan, who heads the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, told the Chronicle that his office notified the archdiocese of a “potential violation” of the law in 2012 and spent nearly four years making “continuous efforts to obtain complete, reliable data.”

In the city's notice of violation, the Chronicle reported, “Out of 3,904 employees during the period covered by the audit, 1,722 worked enough hours in San Francisco to be covered by the health care ordinance, and the archdiocese had made the legally required payments for only 636 of them.”

[Dan Morris Young writes from NCR from the West Coast.]

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