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Court orders Chesapeake healthcare company that retaliated against workers, obstructed investigation to pay $703K in overtime back wages, damages

CHESAPEAKE, VA – The U.S. Department of Labor has obtained a default judgment to recover $703,609 in back wages and liquidated damages for 38 employees denied overtime pay by a Chesapeake home healthcare company and its owner who also retaliated against workers for cooperating with federal investigators.

In its Sept. 1, 2022, judgment, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia found that Heavenly Hands Home Healthcare LLC and owner, Lauren Wilson must pay the back wages and damages to the affected home healthcare workers for its violations of federal law.

The judgment follows an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found the employer and the company’s owner willfully failed to maintain accurate records of all hours worked and paid straight time for hours worked over 40 in a work week, failing to pay the required overtime premium. The division also learned the employer told workers not to speak with department investigators, and falsified employees’ signatures on official payment and payroll receipt records to make it appear as though they had made the payment. These actions violated the anti-retaliation, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Employers who deprive workers of all of their hard-earned wages and then retaliate against workers in an attempt to obstruct a federal investigation into their illegal pay and employment practices will be held accountable by the U.S. Department of Labor,” explained Wage and Hour Division District Director Roberto Melendez in Richmond, Virginia. “We encourage workers to contact their local Wage and Hour Division office about unfair work practices. Federal law protects all workers – regardless of where they come from – against violations of their workplace rights.”

The court’s action follows the filing of an enforcement action  and a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on June 1, 2022, by the department’s Office of the Solicitor to enforce the workers’ rights under the FLSA, recover owed wages, prevent Heavenly Hands and its owner from obstructing the investigation, retaliating against employees who cooperated with investigators, demanding kickbacks of back wages found due by the division and requiring the employer to provide payroll records. On June 30, 2022, the court granted the department’s preliminary injunction motion.

“The judgment sends a clear message that the U.S. Department of Labor will seek legal remedies to ensure workers’ rights are protected and that we will not tolerate employers who shortchange wages or intimidate employees for exercising their federally protected rights,” said Regional Solicitor Oscar L. Hampton III in Philadelphia.

The Wage and Hour Division’s Richmond District Office conducted the investigation. Trial Attorney Aditi Kumar in the department’s solicitor’s branch office in Arlington litigated the case.

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 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. 

Walsh v. Heavenly Hands Home Healthcare LLC and Lauren Wilson

Civil Action No. 2:22-cv-00237-AWA-LRLVAED