MANCHESTER, NH – A federal investigation has recovered $950,000 in back wages and liquidated damages and $50,000 in punitive damages from a West Lebanon home healthcare business — with a history of unlawful pay practices — that denied overtime wages to 36 employees.
Investigators with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found that, between April 2020 and August 2022, Your Comfort Zone Inc. doing business as Comfort Zone and its president, Rosalind Godfrey, paid home care workers who provide companionship and assistance to clients in New Hampshire and Vermont straight-time rates for the workers’ hours over 40 in a workweek. In addition to its recovery of wages and liquidated damages, the division assessed and the employer has paid $36,324 in civil money penalties for willful violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements.
A related consent judgment and order, entered in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire, requires Godfrey and the business to pay $50,000 in punitive damages to certain employees and also permanently prohibits them from violating the FLSA’s anti-retaliation requirements. Among other things, the order enjoins them from retaliating, and taking or threatening any adverse action against any current or former employees because they asserted their rights under the FLSA. View the consent judgment.
This is not the first time that Your Comfort Zone Inc. and Rosalind Godfrey have run afoul of federal wage laws. In two 2018 investigations, the division identified violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and recovered $100,055 in overtime wages owed to 25 employees. The division later learned the employer allegedly coerced some affected workers into kicking back the money. In October 2022, the department obtained a consent preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire forbidding the company and Godfrey from interfering with the current investigation.
“Your Comfort Zone’s repeated shortchanging of its employees is egregious and illegal and deprives people who provide valuable and necessary care in our communities of the hard-earned overtime wages they need to support themselves and their families,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Steven McKinney in Manchester, New Hampshire. “The Wage and Hour Division does not tolerate employers repeatedly or willfully violating the rights of workers to be paid their full wages. We will use every enforcement tool we have to recover workers’ wages and bring serial violators like these into compliance.”
“The resolution of this case serves as notice to employers that retaliation and wage theft are not tolerated. When employers illegally attempt to coerce workers to kick back wages, the U.S. Department of Labor will respond with effective and assertive legal actions on behalf of workers and the law,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston.
“Here in New England and across the nation, the Wage and Hour Division frequently finds wage violations in its healthcare investigations. In fiscal year 2022, the division recovered over $14.9 million in back wages for more than 22,000 workers in the healthcare industry,” added McKinney. “Home care industry employers can avoid violations and their significant financial consequences by making sure their pay practices comply with federal law. Industry employers should review their practices and contact our office with questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act.”
The division’s Manchester District Office conducted the investigation. The department’s Office of the Solicitor in Boston litigated the case and obtained the consent judgment.
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 required rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.
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. Employers and workers can call the division confidentially with questions, regardless of where they are from. The department can speak with callers confidentially in more than 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for iOS and Android devices – free and now available in Spanish – to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
Walsh v. Your Comfort Zone Inc. and Rosalind Godfrey
Civil Action No. 1:22-cv-414-SE