A proposed class action claims Counseling Alliance of Virginia, LLC (CAVA) has failed to pay certain workers at least the minimum wage for every hour worked as a result of charging “supervision fees” and paying employees only for client-facing work.
The lawsuit alleges the counseling business’s apparent collection of hourly supervision fees for the time workers are supervised by CAVA’s owner or other superiors sometimes causes the employees’ entire paychecks to be withheld. Moreover, CAVA’s failure to pay workers for time spent performing tasks other than those that are client-facing has caused their hourly pay to be “considerably lower” than the rates they are paid for client-facing work, the suit claims.
Per the lawsuit, employer-imposed fees violate the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when they prevent employees from receiving at least the minimum wage “finally and unconditionally” or “free and clear” for every hour worked.
“CAVA willfully violated the FLSA by knowingly failing to pay minimum wages,” the filing charges.
The lawsuit states that CAVA provides counseling services out of its Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia offices. According to the suit, when counselors are supervised by CAVA’s owner or other employees, the defendant charges them hourly “supervision fees,” typically of $75, that are collected through payroll deductions, direct payments or lawsuits. These fees, the case alleges, often cause workers’ entire paychecks to be withheld and result in hourly wages that amount to less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
“CAVA’s policy and practice of withholding paychecks results in [the plaintiff] and similarly situated employees not receiving minimum wages, or any pay at all, for the weeks their paychecks were withheld, in violation of the FLSA minimum wage requirements,” the complaint charges.
The suit goes on to claim that it is CAVA’s policy to pay workers for only the hours they work directly with clients and to provide no wages at all for time spent inputting notes, responding to emails, attending training, waiting for clients who do not show up or performing other non-client-facing tasks. The plaintiff, who worked as a counselor for CAVA, estimates that he put in roughly 1.5 hours of uncompensated work for every hour of client-facing work. As a result, the plaintiff’s actual hourly rate was “considerably lower” than the hourly rate he was paid for client interactions, the lawsuit alleges.
Given the amount of employees’ uncompensated work, CAVA’s supervision fees often cause the workers to receive a negative hourly wage rate, according to the suit.
“For example, the supervision fees CAVA charged to [the plaintiff] ($75/hour), would result in [the plaintiff] receiving an hourly rate of approximately -$66.20 per supervision hour ($8.80 - $75),” the complaint alleges, claiming other employees were subject to similar negative hourly rates.
The plaintiff looks to represent current or former CAVA employees who, within the past three years or ongoing, had their pay withheld by CAVA to recover hourly supervision fees or otherwise paid CAVA the fees, resulting in the worker receiving less than the federal minimum wage for every hour worked in at least one workweek.
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