A proposed class-action lawsuit alleging DaVita, Tenet Healthcare and UnitedHealth Group affiliates violated antitrust law by agreeing not to hire each other’s senior employees is moving forward, although UnitedHealth does not have to defend itself in the case.
Judge Andrea Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District Court of Illinois ruled Monday that the companies must face claims that their conduct violated the Sherman Act and that they engaged in an overarching conspiracy creating an unreasonable restraint of trade. Wood granted UnitedHealth’s motion to dismiss claims against it, writing that no facts indicated the company's direct involvement in the alleged conspiracy and that it should not be held liable for alleged wrongful conduct by its subsidiary, Surgical Care Affiliates.
Allen Spradling, a former director of information technology at Surgical Care Affiliates, filed the lawsuit in March 2021. Spradling also sued Tenet Healthcare affiliate Surgical Partners International and Andrew Hayek, the former executive vice president and senior adviser to the CEO of UnitedHealth's Optum. Spradling alleges that, from at least 2010 to 2017, the companies agreed not to hire senior-level employees from one another.
UnitedHealth Group declined to comment. Spradling's attorneys, DaVita and Tenet Healthcare did not immediately respond to interview requests.
Spradling's claims echo those from an ongoing federal case that began in January 2021. The Justice Department indicted Surgical Care Affiliates on charges the company colluded with competitors not to recruit each other's senior employees.
Lauren Berryman contributed to this story.