Everest Home Care, owner attempted to hide wage theft; assessed $85K in penalties
PITTSBURGH – In return for providing essential homecare for people in need, 218 workers employed by a Pittsburgh-based home care agency expected their employer to pay them all their hard-earned wages. Instead, they found their employer denied them overtime wages, and manipulated records to hide the wage theft.
Following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in Pittsburgh, and litigation by the Regional Solicitor’s Office in Philadelphia, the department has obtained a consent judgment requiring that Everest Home Care LLC and owner Bhuwan Acharya pay more than $1.4 million in back wages and liquidated damages to the affected employees.
Investigators with the department’s Wage and Hour Division determined the employer paid workers a straight-time hourly rate instead of one-and-one-half their required rate for hours over 40 in a workweek. They also found the agency attempted to mask the wage theft by representing straight-time pay as overtime when overtime wages were required. Everest Home Care also failed to include recruitment commissions and hourly coronavirus hazard pay in employees’ required rates of pay when calculating overtime. All of these actions violate the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“Home healthcare workers provide vital services to people in need and their families,” said Principal Deputy Wage and Hour Division Administrator Jessica Looman. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to enforcing worker protections and holding accountable employers who defy the law and deny workers the hard-earned wages on which they depend to care for themselves and their families.”
Entered in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Aug. 5, 2022, the consent judgement requires Everest Home Care and Acharya to pay $719,962 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.
“Wage theft is an all-too-common concern in the healthcare industry, and we are determined to use our resources to hold employers who violate federal labor laws accountable to the fullest extent,” said Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda. “By recovering wages and liquidated damages, when appropriate, for workers we send a clear message to employers in all industries that consequences can be costly for employers who flout the law.”
In addition to back wages and damages, the division assessed $85,075 in civil money penalties given the willful nature of the employers’ FLSA violations.
In fiscal year 2021, the division recovered more than $13.8 million for more than 17,000 healthcare industry workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there were more 1.9 million job openings in the healthcare and social assistance industry, and that more than 717,000 industry workers quit their jobs in May 2022 – all of which is forcing employers to compete hard to retain and recruit the people they need to operate.
“As the U.S. population ages rapidly, healthcare workers are in great demand and facing record burnout at the same time,” Looman added. “Healthcare industry employers who fail to respect workers’ rights are more likely to struggle than their competitors as they seek to attract and retain workers.”
Everest Home Care LLC provides personal assistance, home- and community-based services, and long-term living assistance. In addition to its Pittsburgh headquarters, the company operates a second location in Erie.
For more information about the FLSA and other laws enforced by the division, contact the agency’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. The division protects workers regardless of immigration status and can communicate with workers in more than 200 languages. Download the agency’s new Timesheet App, now available for android devices, to ensure hours and pay are accurate.
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