Court orders Aliquippa home care provider to pay $285K in back wages, damages to 23 workers after Department of Labor investigation, litigation
ALIQUIPPA, PA – As the nation today recognizes the selfless and dedicated work of professional caregivers on National Caregivers Day, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that a federal court has entered a default judgment against an Aliquippa home health provider and its owner, after an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division found the employer denied 23 home health aides overtime wages.
On Jan. 9, 2023, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania ordered Lucky’s Home Care LLC and owner Cheryl McMiller to pay $142,634 in overtime back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages following litigation by the department. Additionally, the judgment permanently forbids the employer from violating the Fair Labor Standards Act in the future.
The action comes after the division’s investigation of the employer’s pay practices that determined the employers did not pay the required overtime premium to the affected employees for hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. Instead, Lucky’s Home Care and McMiller paid straight-time hourly rates for overtime hours worked. While the employer occasionally paid some workers the overtime premium, they capped the number of hours for which the employees could earn overtime wages, and then reverted back to paying straight-time hourly rates for hours worked over the cap. These actions willfully violated the FLSA and led the department to assess a $21,528 civil money penalty that the employer paid.
“Professional caregivers have always been and will continue to be among our nation’s most essential workers. We depend on them to care for us and our family members in times of need and, in return, they deserve our appreciation, respect and protection,” explained Wage and Hour District Director John DuMont in Pittsburgh. “In this case, Lucky’s Home Care LLC and its owner Cheryl McMiller failed to honor their legal obligation to pay workers all of their hard-earned wages, including overtime pay. The court’s action is an important step toward making these workers financially whole.”
In August 2022, the department’s Office of the Solicitor filed a complaint alleging the FLSA violations by Lucky’s Home Care LLC and McMiller. After the employer failed to respond to the complaint in a timely manner, the department asked the court to enter a default judgment and expedite recovery of wages and damages. The court rejected the employer’s motion to dismiss the complaint and granted the default judgment.
“The U.S. Department of Labor will not hesitate to litigate against an employer in federal district court to recover unpaid wages and liquidated damages owed to workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Deputy Regional Solicitor Samantha Thomas in Philadelphia. “This case shows healthcare industry employers that noncompliance with federal law can lead to legal consequences.”
The division’s Pittsburgh District Office conducted the investigation. Trial Attorney Erik Unger with the department’s Office of the Solicitor’s Philadelphia Region litigated the case.
Lucky’s Home Care LLC provides in-home caregiving services to clients that include shopping, housekeeping, meal preparation, 24-hour care, grooming and meeting health needs.
In fiscal year 2022, the division recovered $14.9 million in back wages for more than 22,000 workers in the healthcare industry, where low wages and high rates of violations are common. As the U.S. population ages and demand for home healthcare services increases, employment in a variety of healthcare sectors is projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031 – faster than the average for all occupations – adding about 2 million new jobs.
“Hardworking healthcare workers will choose to work for employers who value them, pay them full wages and respect their rights,” DuMont added. “Employers who comply with labor law and appreciate the dignity of work will have a clear advantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining workers.”
For more information about the FLSA and other laws the division enforces, contact its toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Questions can be addressed in over 200 languages. Learn more about the Wage and Hour Division.
Help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android and iOS Timesheet App for free, also available in Spanish.