Court enters consent order requiring New Hampshire home healthcare business to stop retaliation, intimidation alleged by US Department of Labor
CONCORD, NH – The U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire has entered a consent preliminary injunction to prevent a West Lebanon home healthcare business and its president from coercing employees to “kick back” wages recovered for them by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. The court also ordered them to stop interfering with a current investigation.
This action is the latest involving Your Comfort Zone Inc. and Rosalind Godfrey. After two federal investigations in 2018 found they failed to pay 25 workers overtime wages when required, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the company and its president agreed to pay $100,055 in back wages to the affected workers. On Oct. 14, 2022, the department’s Office of the Solicitor filed a complaint in federal court, alleging the employer later coerced some employees into returning the back wages the investigations recovered.
The department also alleges that the company and Godfrey interfered with a current investigation of their pay practices by asking employees about their contact with investigators, telling at least one employee they did not need to speak with investigators, altering at least one timesheet and submitting that false information to investigators.
“Employers who demand that their employees return wages recovered for them by the U.S. Department of Labor or who try to obstruct and interfere with an investigation are violating federal law,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia S. Fisher in Boston. “When employers demand such ‘kickbacks,’ discourage employees from asserting their legal protections or falsify records, the department will take swift legal action to defend workers’ rights and hold employers accountable.”
The preliminary injunction the department obtained prohibits Your Comfort Zone Inc. and Rosalind Godfrey from retaliation or interference with the investigation so that it may proceed. Specifically, the court order forbids the company and Godfrey from having current or former employees kick back any compensation they are owed, and orders them not to threaten to take, or take, action that harms current or former employees who took part or will take part in legally protected activity. The retaliation prohibition includes termination, verbal or written threats, physical harm or verbal abuse, threats of deportation or reports to immigration authorities and other actions that would hinder an investigation, such as instructing employees not to speak to investigators.
“Federal law empowers the Wage and Hour Division to obtain accurate information from employers to determine if their pay practices comply with federal law. Employees must be able to participate freely in an investigation without fear of retaliation by their employer,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Steven McKinney in Manchester, New Hampshire. “Employers are legally responsible for complying with federal laws that protect workers’ rights, and we are committed to enforcing these laws and taking action when violations are found.”
The division’s Northern New England District Office in Manchester is conducting the investigation. The regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston is litigating the case.
The FLSA requires that most employees in the U.S. be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than time and one-half the required rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division, including a search tool to use if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the division. Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions regardless of their immigration status. The department can speak with callers confidentially in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free.