PITTSBURGH, PA – Employees at Comprehensive Healthcare’s facilities in Western Pennsylvania were allegedly not paid for all the hours they worked due to the company’s policy and practice, according to a lawyer from the U.S. Department of Labor. The attorney claimed that supervisors at the nursing care facilities were aware of the pay issues and sought help from the company’s administrators to address them. Despite submitting documentation and obtaining approvals, employees continued to be unpaid. The government estimates that Comprehensive owes its employees $20 million in unpaid back wages and potentially double that for damages. The company’s attorneys argue that the amount owed is much lower.
The U.S. Department of Labor filed a complaint in 2018, accusing the New York-based company of failing to pay employees for overtime and failing to maintain accurate records of wages and hours worked. The bench trial for the case began before U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV and is expected to last for at least two weeks. The government plans to call 40 witnesses, including current and former employees, and submit hundreds of exhibits. The attorney from the Labor Department stated that employees were paid based on their work schedule hours rather than the actual time recorded on the punch clock. Additionally, they were not compensated for working through their lunches.
The failure to appropriately pay employees also contributed to staffing crises within the facilities, the attorney argued. Comprehensive Healthcare has faced multiple legal entanglements in recent years, including a recent health care fraud case where all five charged executives were acquitted. The company’s Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County also experienced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, resulting in numerous deaths. Lawsuits have been filed in connection with the outbreak.
Furthermore, the government accused Comprehensive of attempting to sell off its assets to avoid potential damages in the labor department case. Despite efforts to halt the sales, Judge Stickman allowed the company to proceed with selling seven of its facilities for $56 million.
During the trial, it was revealed that Sam Halper, the owner of Comprehensive, was involved in the day-to-day decision-making regarding employee pay. The attorney for the government argued that under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the judge must award damages equivalent to double the amount of back pay unless the defendants can prove the errors were made in good faith. The defense attorney claimed that the government has exaggerated the situation, asserting that compliance with overtime rules is a complex task and occasional technical mistakes by employees are expected.
In conclusion, Comprehensive Healthcare in Western Pennsylvania is facing a labor case in which the company is accused of not paying employees for all their hours worked. The government claims that the company owes $20 million in unpaid back wages, while the defense argues that the amount is significantly lower. The trial is ongoing before U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV and is expected to last at least two weeks. This case is one of several legal issues Comprehensive has faced, including a recent health care fraud case and lawsuits related to a COVID-19 outbreak at one of their facilities.