NEW YORK – A federal court has ordered a Brewster home care provider to stop retaliating against employees in an effort to obstruct a U.S. Department of Labor investigation into the employers’ pay practices.

On March 1, 2023, the department obtained a temporary restraining order in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sunrise Home Care Inc. and owner Elsa Silva. The action comes after the department’s Wage and Hour Division began an investigation in January 2023 to evaluate the employers’ compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.

In seeking the court order, the department alleged – that since the investigation began – Silva has harassed and intimidated employees repeatedly by asking them about their communications with investigators and instructing them to provide false information to the department. Investigators also learned the owner told employees she would have to close the business and they would lose their jobs if the division’s investigation determined she had to pay overtime premiums. They also learned that the owner pressured employees to agree to return to the employers any monies owed to employees as a result of the investigation.

In its order, the court forbids Silva and Sunrise Home Care Inc. from doing the following:

Violating the FLSA’s anti-retaliation provisions.
Threatening employees with termination or other retaliatory actions or taking any other actions to prevent them from participating in the department’s investigation or in any other FLSA-protected activity.
Obstructing and interfering, in any way, with the division’s investigation.
Telling workers not to cooperate with investigators or to provide incomplete or false information to them.
Questioning employees about their cooperation or communications with investigators.
Advising current and former employees that they must “kickback” or return any back wages the department may determine they are owed.
Communicating with any employee regarding the investigation without first informing the employee that they may communicate with investigators voluntarily and not be discriminated against for doing so.
The court also requires the employers to do the following:

Permit division representatives to read aloud – in English, Spanish, Portuguese and any other language understood by most employees – a statement describing employees’ FLSA rights during their paid working hours and in the presence of the defendants. The employers must also mail a written statement of the same to current and former employees.
Provide a written notice to the Wage and Hour Division at least seven days prior to terminating an employee for any reason.
“The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division must be able to gather information from the employer and employees to determine if an employer is obeying or defying the law,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Jay I. Rosenblum in Albany, New York. “Requiring employees to lie to federal investigators isn’t and should never be a condition of employment.” 

View the order and the complaint.   

“When employers like Sunrise Home Care Inc. of Brewster use threats and intimidation to hinder a U.S. Department of Labor investigation, we will take swift and effective legal action to hold them accountable and ensure that workers maintain the full legal rights and protections guaranteed under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Jeffrey S. Rogoff in New York.

The division’s White Plains area office is conducting the investigation. Senior Trial Attorney Allison L. Bowles of the regional Office of the Solicitor in New York is litigating the case for the department.

Learn more about how the Wage and Hour Division protects workers against retaliation. 

The FLSA requires that most employees in the U.S. be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime pay at not less than time and one-half the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

For more information about workers’ rights and other employee rights enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions regardless of where they are from and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages. Use an online search tool  if you think you may be owed back wages collected by the 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.

Walsh v. Sunrise Home Care Inc. and Elsa Silva.

Case No. 23-1573

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