ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester-based home care management company TruCare stiffed 260 employees for nearly $230,000, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday.
TruCare Connections provides at-home services primarily for senior citizens in Rochester, Buffalo, and Syracuse, with a focus on serving those who speak languages other than English.
TruCare CEO Kishore Chauhan told News 8 that “the oversight was not willful,” and was due to a misunderstanding of employee classification and subsequent state vs. federal regulations.
Representatives with the DOL Wage and Hour Division say TruCare neglected to pay overtime for employees in Rochester and Syracuse who worked between 40 and 44 hours a week between Oct. 28, 2019, and Oct. 27, 2021. Chauchan says this came from an erroneous classification of certain employees.
While overtime was applied when any employee worked more than 44 hours, the Fair Labor Standards Act requires overtime pay of at least 1.5 times regular wages for most employees working over 40 hours.
Certain exceptions include residential employees, who receive overtime after 44 hours.
Chauhan said the underpayment of wages was for a “small subset” of live-in caregivers known as Personal Assistants, who TruCare believed were classified as residential.
“Our visit verification software vendor set our OT threshold at 44 hours for live-in caregivers based on NY rule and when we found out it violated federal FLSA law, we immediately took corrective measures in Oct. 2021,” Chauhan stated, explaining that TruCare had “taken corrective action before the investigation began” in Nov. 2021.
In total, TruCare paid $228,379 in back wages. According to Chauchan, companies found guilty of overtime violations are usually required to pay an additional fee of 200% of unpaid wages to the DOL. However, Chauchan said that DOL investigators found their violation to be “not willful,” and therefore only required they pay the owed wages.
Additionally, the DOL says TruCare violated child labor restrictions by hiring two 15-year-olds, who performed “duties not listed as permitted occupations” for people of that age. The two teens were assisting their clients in bathroom activities, dressing, and moving about their residences. They were also found to be working more than the weekly maximum of 18 hours during the school year.
Chauchan said these minors had been employed by their respective grandparents through a Medicaid Program called the Consumer Directed Personal Care Program, and said they “didn’t have any strenuous activities assigned to them.” He also said neither teen worked more than 20 hours a week.
“We act as a Fiscal Intermediary for this program where disabled Medicaid recipients can hire their family members/relatives for activities of daily living,” Chauchan stated, and explained that TruCare stopped hiring minors after April 2021, “due to the complexities involved.”
He clarified that the child employees were not sole caregivers in either case. “We still understand that this violated the law in some way […] but the children were never explored to dangerous work environment or over-worked.”
For this violation, the DOL ordered TruCare to pay a “monetary penalty” of $3,640.
Chauchan said that as of July 2022, back wages were returned to 251 current and former employees in a process that began before the investigation. He said TruCare has been unable to contact nine former employees, whose wages have been given to the U.S. Treasury.
“Those employees can get their wages back by contacting the DOL,” Chauchan said.
As of May 2022, the industry of healthcare and social services has almost two million openings, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also predicts the healthcare sector is projected to grow 16 percent from 2020 to 2030 — faster than the average for all occupations — adding about 2.6 million new jobs.
Employees who think they may be owed back wages can learn more on the Wages and Hour Division’s website. Employers and workers can also call the division confidentially and ask questions in over 200 languages through the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).