Courts orders Lancaster healthcare agency to pay more than $1.15M in back wages, damages after US Department of Labor investigation
LANCASTER, PA – A federal court entered a consent judgment against a Pennsylvania home healthcare agency and its owner after investigators found they denied 193 direct care workers overtime pay.
Entered on April 11, 2022, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the judgment requires Nursing Care in Home LLC – operating as Meridius Health in Lancaster – and owner, Rustam Suvanidze to pay a total of $1,158,955. The employer will pay $579,477 in back wages, and an equal amount in liquidated damages to the affected workers.
In addition, the employer and its owner must pay $37,921 in civil money penalties assessed by the department for the willful nature of their violations.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division’s Wilkes-Barre District Office determined the employer paid employees straight time for all hours worked. Additionally, bonuses and hazard pay were not factored into the employees’ rate of pay for purposes of computing overtime. Their actions are violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition to the back wages, damages and penalties, the judgment prohibits the employers from violating the FLSA in the future.
“Home care workers deliver essential services on a daily basis, and their work is vital to the well-being of the people they serve,” said Acting Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “The Wage and Hour Division will not tolerate the exploitation of care workers or attempts to circumvent federal overtime laws.”
“This enforcement action goes a long way to ensure that the healthcare workers employed by Meridius Health receive all of their hard-earned wages, including overtime pay,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “Employers have a legal responsibility to pay employees all wages earned.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 679,000 healthcare and social services workers left their positions in December 2021. As the aging U.S. population grows and demand for home healthcare services increases, employment in a variety of healthcare sectors is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations – adding about 2.6 million new jobs. These trends indicate that industry employers will find it more difficult to recruit and retain without being highly competitive and ensuring compliance with laws governing workers’ rights.
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. The division protects workers regardless of immigration status, and can communicate with workers in more than 200 languages.