February 03, 2023
A Lansdowne home health care company must pay more than $2.3 million in back wages and damages to workers after failing to provide them with time-and-a-half overtime pay, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday.
Affectionate Home Health Care, which provides nursing care and household management to Philadelphia and Delaware County residents who need help with daily tasks, willingly shortchanged employees' overtime wages, according to a judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Affectionate Home Health Care and its owners, Ashford B. Sonii and Habibatu K. Dumbar, were ordered to pay more than $1.17 million in back wages and an equal amount of money in damages to 398 workers, the judgment said. From Oct. 5, 2018 through at least Sept. 24, 2021, the company paid workers for straight time or paid an arbitrary overtime rate that was less than the time-and-a-half rate required by law. The company also must pay a $219,099 civil penalty.
Sonii and Dumbar did not separate straight-time hours worked from overtime hours and failed to record the proper rates for overtime work weeks accurately, the judgment said. That violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
"Home health care workers provide essential services to those who depend greatly on their care, and these workers deserve to be fairly and fully compensated," said Jessica Looman, DOL's principal deputy wage and hour administrator. "The Wage and Hour Division will vigorously protect the workplace rights and dignity of these workers and ensure employees fulfill their obligation to comply with federal labor laws."
The Department of Labor filed a legal complaint against the company in September, alleging violations to federal labor laws. In the complaint, DOL claimed that Affectionate Home Health Care employees sometimes worked between 58 to 112 hours per work week without proper overtime pay.
The judgment, which was filed in late January, notes that Sonii and Dumbar are barred from taking any retaliatory action against workers who are receiving back pay for reporting additional violations or refusing to participate in actions that would be in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Unless workers are employed in an occupation that is exempted from the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act or Fair Labor Standards Act, employees who work more than 40 hours per week must be paid an overtime rate of at least 1 1/2 of their regular rate of pay, according to Pennsylvania's Department of Labor and Industry.
"By initiating litigation, the U.S. Department of Labor made it clear to the employer that we were serious about protecting their employees' rights and making sure they would receive their rightfully owed wages," said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. "When employers willfully disregard the law and deny employees' wages, we will hold them legally accountable, including my seeking civil money penalties."
The health care industry is rife with overtime violations, according to the Wage and Hour Division, which recovered $14.9 million in back wages for more than 22,000 workers in 2022. As the U.S. population grows and demand for home health care services continues to expand, employment in a variety of health care sectors is projected to grow by 13% between 2021 and 2031, adding about 2 million jobs.
In January, Willow Grove-based TriMED Healthcare was required to pay workers $3.8 million in dodged overtime pay to 433 workers. The company tried to avoid paying the required time-and-a-half pay rate for employees who worked more than 40 hours per week by adjusting workers' regular wages, subsequently allowing them to pay the same rate they would have for 40 hours of work.