Assisted-living firm told to pay nearly $528,000 for overtime

February 07, 2006|By HANAH CHO | HANAH CHO,SUN REPORTER

Self Pride Inc., a Baltimore-based operator of assisted-living facilities, has been ordered to pay nearly $528,000 in back wages for overtime and related costs to almost 400 current and former employees, the U.S. Department of Labor announced yesterday.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled last month that nonprofit Self Pride violated provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Employees complained that they were forced to work eight extra hours a week without pay. Company executives denied their workers' claims and said they did not violate federal labor laws.

Neal M. Janey, an attorney for Self Pride, said he filed a notice of appeal yesterday.

"We're obviously disappointed in the verdict with respects to the damage," Janey said.

A Labor Department lawsuit, filed in December 2003, alleged that Self Pride did not pay overtime to employees who worked more than 40 hours a week. The suit also alleged the company failed to keep proper records of employee wages and hours. The violations occurred between November 1999 and July 2003, according to court documents.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett granted summary judgment in favor of the Labor Department regarding those two allegations.

Still pending in the case were two issues, including the amount of damages and whether Self Pride willfully violated the federal labor law.

Such a determination would allow an exception to the two-year statute of limitations. Both issues went to trial last fall.

On Jan. 17, Bennett issued an opinion ordering Self Pride to pay $372,664 in overtime back wages to 392 current and former employees. He also granted an additional $155,240 in related damages to 96 of the employees.

Awards for individual employees will depend on hours worked and could range from a few dollars to more than $10,000, said Leni Uddyback-Fortson, a Labor Department spokeswoman.

Despite ordering that back wages should be paid, the judge ruled that Self Pride did not willfully violate the federal law.

According to court documents, certain community-living assistants worked a continuous shift from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday. Although they worked for 48 hours, the employees were paid for 40 hours.

Self Pride said the workers were paid for 40 hours because of a four-hour break on Saturday and Sunday, according to court documents. But employees said that they often were required to work during the breaks and that those hours were docked from their paychecks regardless of whether they took the time.

Community-living assistants care for residents, including changing diapers and rotating beds. Self Pride provides 24-hour care to developmentally disabled residents at 10 facilities, eight of which are in Baltimore.

Barbara A. Robinson, Self Pride's president, executive director and CEO, told the court that "[n]o time was ever docked or reduced from an employee's time sheet without the employees having an opportunity to meet with [Robinson] to discuss his or her time sheet," according to court documents. She did not return telephone messages yesterday.

hanah.cho@baltsun.com

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