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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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News Release

WHD News Release: [08/01/2011]
Contact Name: John M. Chavez
Phone Number: (617) 565-2075
Release Number: 11-1020-NEW or 11-0273-BOS

Federal court holds Puerto Rico nursing home and owner liable for minimum wage and overtime back wages, resolving US Labor Department lawsuit

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico — The U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico has approved a consent judgment ordering Hogar La Bendición Inc., a nursing home facility, and company officer Elba Garcia Hernandez to pay nearly $19,588 in back wages and interest to 10 workers employed as caretakers and kitchen staff. The judgment resolves a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor after an investigation by its Wage and Hour Division disclosed willful and repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage, overtime and record-keeping provisions. Separately, the department has assessed the defendants $1,540 in civil money penalties for these willful and repeat violations.

Hogar La Bendición is located at Calle 1 E 1617 Urb Bella Vista in Bayamon. Hernandez was the subject of a previous, unrelated Wage and Hour Division investigation, as a result of which she was required to pay $21,026 in minimum wage and overtime back wages to employees for violations of the FLSA.

"The nursing home and residential care industry employs a large number of low-wage and vulnerable workers who are susceptible to exploitation and disparate treatment," said José R. Vázquez, director of the Wage and Hour Division's Guaynabo District Office, which conducted this latest investigation. "These hardworking employees often have to make significant personal sacrifices in order to provide quality care for their patients. They deserve to be paid fully for all hours of their work. As demonstrated by this case, the Labor Department will use all enforcement tools available to pursue violators and ensure compliance with the law."

The investigation revealed that employees were made to work in excess of 40 hours a week without regard to overtime compensation. Additionally, they were paid wages that amounted to an average of $6 per hour, below the federal minimum wage requirement of $7.25 per hour. Investigators also found that the defendants willfully and repeatedly violated the FLSA's record-keeping provisions by failing to accurately record employees' hours worked and rates of pay, and the wages actually paid.

Besides requiring payment of back wages and interest, the consent judgment prohibits the defendants from future FLSA violations. If the defendants fail to make the payments, the court will appoint a receiver with power to seize and liquidate their assets to satisfy the order. The defendants also must advise employees of their rights under the FLSA orally in Spanish and in any other languages spoken by the employees. Finally, the defendants must display official posters explaining employee rights under the FLSA in places where all employees may view them in English, Spanish and any other necessary languages.

The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as time and one-half their regular rates for every hour they work beyond 40 per week. The law also requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees' wages, hours and other conditions of employment, and prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the law.

The suit being resolved was filed by the Labor Department's regional solicitor in New York City. For more information about the requirements of the FLSA, contact the Wage and Hour Division's Guaynabo office at 787-775-1947 or the division's toll-free helpline at 866-US-WAGE (487-9243). Information is also available on the Internet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.

Solis v. Hogar La Bendición Inc.
Civil Action Number: 11-CV-1592