The U.S. Department of Labor reportedly has recouped $2.1 million dollars in back wages as a result of an ongoing enforcement initiative which, to date, involved investigation of 200 residential care facilities within the jurisdiction of its North Carolina District Office. The DOL reported finding “widespread violations” of the Fair Labor Standards Act minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions. It described “common” violations such as: failure to pay for work performed outside an employee’s scheduled shift; failure to pay employees for time spent attending staff meetings and trainings; deducting eight-hour sleep periods from shifts of fewer than 24 hours; improper deductions from wages, to name a few. Although the DOL’s initiative is, for now, focused upon residential care facilities in North Carolina, it may implement similar initiatives to enforce the federal law nationwide.
The “common” violations identified by the USDOL are not unique to residential care facilities and could be occurring in other sectors of the health care industry such as hospitals and physician offices. To aid health care employers (and to educate health care employees) the DOL has published a fact sheet (available here) explaining the FLSA and its implications. As part of its enhanced enforcement program, the DOL developed a smart phone app to help employees track hours they work. Thus, for off-the-clock and “written off work hours” cases, employees will be able to rely on their own records, not just the employers’ records. As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Understanding and properly applying the FLSA, applicable state labor laws and wage regulations is critical to avoiding not only DOL penalties but even more costly class and collective action litigation. Jackson Lewis attorneys are available to help residential care facilities and other providers draft new policies and/or ensure their existing policies are in compliance.