home healthcare nurse on ipad

Many workers are unfortunately denied their hard-earned money because their employers fail to pay them for all hours worked. This was the case recently with a home healthcare provider in Illinois. The employer was ordered to pay over $1.1 million in back wages and damages because it did not compensate its employees for all hours worked. Are you being paid for all of the work you’re doing? If not, we can help.

What the Employer Did Wrong and the Court Ordered

An investigation revealed that Midwest Home Care in Mattoon, Illinois was failing to properly pay its workers. It was found that the company had been paying a daily rate to workers who were employed as caregivers. No overtime premium was paid in addition to the day-rate, despite the fact that most of these employees worked 24-hour shifts, and over 40 hours per week. These actions, therefore, violated both minimum wage and overtime rules set by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The employer attempted to argue that the FLSA, which sets the floor of minimum wage and overtime rights for workers in the United States, did not apply to his business because it operated entirely in the state of Illinois. U.S. District Court Judge Colin Bruce dismissed this argument, and on the same day, found the employer liable for back wages and damages totaling just over $1.1 million for 69 Midwest Home Care workers. In addition, the court determined it was appropriate to protect the confidentiality of the employees who cooperated with the investigation and the subsequent court action.

The amount ordered was $562,389 in back wages plus an equal amount of liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are common in these cases and, under the FLSA, are equal to the amount of back wages (ie. Double Damages). Nearly all employers must follow the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage rules, or those set by state and local governments if they are more beneficial to workers.

On top of the failure to pay for overtime hours (time and a half) and to pay a minimum wage, the court held the employer liable for violating the FLSA’s recordkeeping requirements by not accurately tracking the number of hours an employee worked, including interruptions to the worker’s sleep time interruptions. The sleep credit that Midwest Home Care claimed was invalid.

Day Rate and Healthcare Workers Are Particularly Vulnerable

Many employers attempt to skirt the FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements by paying their employees a day rate or daily rate. In this arrangement, the employer pays a flat amount for each day worked, regardless of the number of hours. Such was the case with Midwest Home Care.

Doing this does not relieve an employer of its obligations to follow the law. Most day-rate workers will still be eligible for overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. Also, paying a day rate could result in a minimum wage violation if the overall hourly rate (total compensation earned during the week divided by the number of hours worked) does not meet the federal or state minimum wage, whichever is higher.

Medical and healthcare workers are also frequently taken advantage of by their employers. As with Midwest, these employees tend to put in long hours without being paid overtime. While some exemptions exist for these workers, they are limited and strictly defined under the law. Employers bear the ultimate responsibility in ensuring that any claimed exemptions are correctly applied, and often they are not.

A spokesperson for the DOL noted the following: “The Wage and Hour Division often finds workers in this industry [home healthcare] – among our nation’s lowest paid – victimized by employers’ wage violations.”

Is Your Employer Fairly Paying You?

If you’re a day rate worker or you are employed in the medical, healthcare, or home healthcare industries, there’s a good chance you are not being paid the overtime and/or minimum wage that you deserve. Even if your employer claims you are exempt from the FLSA’s requirements, you should have an experienced attorney take a look. Fill out The Lore Law Firm’s confidential and free client intake form today to learn more.