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US Labor Department secures nearly $290K in back wages, damages for employees of La Bella Vida Assisted Living Facility
TAMPA, Fla. — La Bella Vida Assisted Living Facility Inc., a Tampa business, and its owner, Mavel Infante, are paying $287,087 in back wages and liquidated damages to 20 workers. Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida issued a judgment against the firm and its owner on Nov. 17.
During the pendency of this litigation, the firm paid more than $129,000 in back wages and damages toward resolving wage violations for 20 workers. This judgment requires payment of an additional $158,000 in back wages and damages to 15 of the 20 workers.
A U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation found that La Bella Vida violated the overtime, minimum wage and record-keeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Specifically, the firm paid employees a predetermined salary, based on their shift, regardless of the number of hours worked. Employees regularly worked as many as 108 hours in a week for these salaries, resulting in their pay rates plummeting to as little as $3 to $5 per hour, denying them legally required minimum wage and overtime. The employer also failed to keep records of hours worked by employees, and provided falsified time cards to the investigator. The investigation was part of the division's initiative to assess compliance with the FLSA in assisted living facilities.
"Workers in this industry, who work long hours taking care of loved ones, often struggle to take care of their own families. When they are denied the hard-earned wages they have rightfully earned, it's unacceptable," said Wayne Kotowski, the Wage and Hour Division's regional administrator in Atlanta. "The Wage and Hour Division is committed to ensuring workers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and we will use every tool available to us, including litigation, to hold employers accountable."
The judgment not only requires La Bella Vida and Infante to pay back wages and liquidated damages, but it also includes an injunction against violating the minimum wage, overtime compensation, record-keeping, and anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA.
Simply paying employees a salary does not mean that they are not entitled to minimum wage and overtime. The FLSA provides an exemption from both minimum wage and overtime pay requirements for individuals employed in bona fide executive, administrative, professional and outside sales positions, as well as certain computer employees. To qualify for an exemption, employees generally must meet certain tests regarding their job duties and be paid on a salary basis at not less than $455 per week.
The FLSA requires that covered, nonexempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and one-half their regular rates of pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also are required to maintain accurate time and payroll records and to comply with the hours worked requirements. For more information about the FLSA and wage laws or to file a complaint, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243), the Tampa District Office at 813-288-1242, or visit http://www.dol.gov/whd.