Part-owner of Pittsburgh assisted living provider that denied wages, intimidated workers pays $1M in back wages, damages after federal investigation, litigation
PITTSBURGH – The part-owner and operator of a Pittsburgh-area assisted living provider has paid more than $1 million in back wages and liquidated damages to 47 workers after a U.S. Department of Labor investigation found their pay practices denied the workers their rightfully earned wages.
On Sept. 20, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania approved a consent judgement confirming that Kelley Oliver-Hollis, part-owner and operator of Serenitycare LLC – which operates as Serenitycare in Pittsburgh paid the department $1.05 million as part of its recovery for the affected workers.
The employer also paid a $44,741 civil money penalty for willfully violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The court’s action partially resolves litigation against Oliver-Hollis and Serenitycare filed by the department’s Office of the Solicitor in July 2022.
“Federal law requires employers to comply with all federal employee protections, including proper classification and payment of all legally earned wages,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director John DuMont in Pittsburgh. “Workers also have the right to participate in investigations without fear of retaliation.”
The Wage and Hour Division’s investigation revealed that Oliver-Hollis and her company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when they:
- Deducted advanced leave from two employees’ final paychecks which led them to pay less than the federally required $7.25 hourly minimum wage.
- Willfully misclassified direct care workers and direct care leads as independent contractors and improperly classified them as exempt from overtime. By doing so, the employer denied them the required overtime premium for hours over 40 in a workweek.
- Paid employees straight time for scheduled shift hours and not actual hours worked. In some cases, the employer paid straight time for overtime hours in cash and did not record the payments.
- Coerced some employees to become independent contractors to avoid paying them overtime.
- Failed to keep accurate totals of daily and weekly hours worked.
Investigators also learned that Oliver-Hollis asked some workers to write letters refusing the back wages and to falsely claim they chose to be independent contractors for financial gain.
Prompted by the division’s investigation, the department filed a complaint on July 15, 2022 against Serenitycare LLC and Oliver-Hollis to obtain back wages and liquidated damages and seek injunctive relief. Less than two months after the filing, the department obtained full payment from Oliver-Hollis and after negotiations, secured the approved consent judgment.
The court’s judgment also forbids Oliver-Hollis from violating the FLSA in the future.
“The Department of Labor’s litigation led to the swift recovery of back wages and liquidated damages owed to these workers, and a court judgment that forbids Kelley Oliver-Hollis and Serenitycare LLC from ever again violating the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Oscar L. Hampton III in Philadelphia. “We will continue to enforce the law vigorously to protect the rights of workers.”
Serenitycare LLC owns and operates six homes and one training facility in Allegheny County, providing direct care services to patients, including patients with mental disabilities. Kelley Oliver-Hollis directs employment practices that include hiring and firing, supervising, setting work hours and compensating employees.
The division’s Pittsburgh District Office conducted the investigation. Trial Attorneys Aditi Kumar and Maria del Pilar Castillo, with the department’s Office of the Solicitor’s Philadelphia Region, litigated the case.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws the division enforces, contact its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). 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. Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions or concerns – regardless of where you are from – and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android Timesheet App for free.