DETROIT – A federal judge has found Independent Home Care of Michigan LLC and its owners Mary Clark and Kathryn Flick liable to pay 23 home healthcare workers a total of $93,331 – representing $46,665 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages– after the company failed to pay companion workers overtime wages.
Judge Victoria A. Roberts of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District, Southern Division of Michigan issued her findings against the employers on May 17, 2022, following a two-day bench trial on May 9 and 10.
Independent Home Care of Michigan challenged the findings of a U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division investigation that found the company in violation of the Home Health Care Final Rule of 2013 that requires staffing agencies to pay overtime to companion services workers when they work in excess of 40 hours in a work-week. The Home Health Care Final Rule went into effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The employers failed to pay overtime wages from Jan. 23, 2018 through June 1, 2019. Investigators also found the Fenton, Michigan, company failed to keep accurate records of hours worked and rates of pay for work performed – violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Independent Home Health Care argued against liquidated damages claiming ignorance of the change in the law and reliance on advice given by the department on the old law in 1999 and on a community agency who contracted the services of Independent Home Care. To avoid paying liquidated damages, the court stated that the employers had to make “ongoing and continuing efforts” to keep informed of “ever-changing laws.” The company failed to meet its substantial burden of establishing it took active and affirmative steps to comply with the law.
“The Home Health Care Final Rule made significant changes that recognize the critical tasks and long hours performed by home healthcare providers and required employers to begin compensating workers for overtime in January 2015,” said Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Michael Lazzeri in Chicago. “Complying with changes in this highly publicized law is the responsibility of employers in the healthcare industry.”
Clark, a nurse, founded the company in July 2000 and her daughter, Flick, became the company’s co-owner, a year later. Independent Home Care of Michigan provides companionship services to individuals with mental, intellectual and developmental disabilities. The company contracts for community living support and respite services with Genesee Health System of Genesee County – known as GHS. GHS receives more than 93 percent of its funding through Medicare and the balance through state resources and private donations.
“The U.S. Department of Labor is determined to ensure employers comply with the law and will take all necessary actions to hold them responsible,” added Regional Solicitor of Labor Christine Heri in Chicago. “The department is often the only advocate for workers denied their rightful wages and we are committed to being their voice.”
From 2019 to 2021, Wage and Hour Division investigations recovered more than $747,926 for Michigan healthcare workers as a result of violations of worker protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In March 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the 682,000 healthcare and social services workers left their positions and the field had more than 2 million openings. As the aging U.S. population grows and demand for home healthcare services increases, employment in a variety of healthcare sectors is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030 – faster than the average for all occupations – adding about 2.6 million new jobs.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, contact the division’s 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.
Walsh. vs. Independent Home Care of Michigan LLC, Mary Clark, Kathryn Flick
Case No. 2:20-cv-10170-VAR-EAS