GUAYNABO, PR – While 62 employees at two hospice care centers in Puerto Rico provided vital services to comfort terminally ill people and their families, a U.S. Department of Labor investigation has found their employer’s pay practices hurt their ability to care for themselves and their families.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division found Hospicio en el Hogar Fe in Manati and Esperanza de P.R. in Mayaguez – commonly owned and operated as Hospicio la Fe – classified the workers as voluntary personnel incorrectly, and paid them a stipend of $3.75 per hour or $5.00 per hour for employee expenses, such as gasoline. By doing so, the employer incurred minimum wage violations by paying less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The division also determined the hospice care centers did not pay the workers time-and-one-half their required rate of pay for hours over 40 in a workweek. In addition, Hospicio la Fe failed to make, keep and preserve accurate and complete records of their employees’ wages and hours. These actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The investigation led to the recovery of $54,673 in back wages for the 62 employees.
“The pandemic demonstrated that the services healthcare workers provide are essential to our families, our communities and the economy. Workers often provide these services at great risk to themselves,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Jose R. Vazquez-Fernandez in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. “With a rapidly aging U.S. population and demand for healthcare workers growing fast, employers who shortchange workers or deny them the rights and benefits the law provides will not have sufficient workers to meet the demand.”
In fiscal year 2021, the division recovered nearly $14 million for more than 17,000 healthcare industry workers in more than 1,100 investigations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there were more than 1.9 million job openings for healthcare and social assistance workers in June 2022, as about 728,000 workers in the field quit their jobs, all of which depicts a highly competitive job market in these areas.
“Employers that fail to demonstrate respect for workers’ rights are likely to struggle to retain and recruit the people they need to operate as compared to those who abide by the law,” added Vazquez-Fernandez.
Hospicio la Fe provides special care for people who are terminally ill in their own homes and is certified and paid by Medicare to offer hospice care services.
For information about laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
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. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for Android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.