A former Home Caregivers of Cookeville, LLC employee claims the home care service provider required her to work 24 hours per day for a month early in the COVID-19 outbreak without paying overtime wages.
The 16-page case out of Tennessee alleges that after the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state government to issue a “shelter in place” order, Home Caregivers and its owners required workers to sign agreements that obligated them to provide residential caregiver services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, purportedly for two-week periods at a time. Per the complaint, workers received no time-and-a-half wages as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act despite working a “huge number of overtime hours” per week.
The lawsuit explains Home Caregivers provides non-medical home care services within clients’ private homes and in fully serviced living facilities. Elderly and handicapped clients are housed in the defendant’s Community Living Support (CLS) facilities while persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities are housed in Employment and Community First (ECF) facilities, the case states.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the plaintiff, who worked for the defendant as a caregiver between December 2019 and June 2020, and other employees were paid hourly wages and worked established schedules that normally did not require them to live in Home Caregivers’ housing for “weeks on end,” the suit says. Instead, workers rotated in and out of the defendants’ housing at the end of their shifts upon being relieved by other employees, according to the case.
As the COVID-19 outbreak began to spread, however, the plaintiff and other workers were required to sign agreements that stipulated they would provide caregiver services in residential caregiver homes 24 hours per day, seven days per week during what the complaint refers to as “the Covid Lockdown Period.” If an employee refused to sign, he or she would be taken off the schedule and receive no income “for weeks on end,” the lawsuit alleges.
According to the complaint, the agreement specified that caregivers would work 14-day rotations, during which they were not permitted to leave their assigned CLS/ECF facilities, in exchange for the following pay rates:
Daily Rate - $215.00
Weekly Rate - $1,505.00
Biweekly Rate - $3,010.00
The plaintiff says that after signing the agreement, she was not permitted to leave her CLS home for 31 consecutive days between April 2 and May 3, 2020. The plaintiff says that during her month-long shift, she was on duty 24 hours per day providing caregiver services to her client, including “bathing, grooming, personal hygiene and grooming, dressing, toileting, cooking, feeding, ambulation, wheelchair assistance, sweeping, mopping, dusting, changing linens, making beds, washing dishes, laundry, meal prep, and medication reminders.”
According to the suit, “there was no explicit or implicit agreement” between the plaintiff and defendants to exclude from each workday bona fide meal periods or sleeping periods. The plaintiff alleges that because of her job duties, which included checking on her CLS client every two hours, she could not take an uninterrupted sleeping period of five hours or more during the lockdown period and was essentially on call for 24 hours each day.
“Defendants expected Plaintiff and Class Members to be on-call throughout each 24-hour shift during the Covid Lockdown Period, and thus required Plaintiff and Class Members to perform 24 hours of work each day,” the complaint claims.
Despite working more than 40 hours per week, the plaintiff and other caregivers received no overtime wages during their “lockdown” shifts, the lawsuit alleges.
Moreover, the defendants have during the last three years failed to include employees’ non-discretionary bonuses as part of their regular pay rates for the purpose of calculating overtime wages, the case claims. Thus, when workers earned overtime wages during a period in which they qualified to receive a bonus, the wages they received were less than those to which they were entitled under federal law, the suit argues.
The plaintiff looks to represent all similarly situated current and former non-exempt caregivers who worked for the defendants during the past three years and:
Signed an agreement similar to the agreement signed by the plaintiff; or
Provided extended 24-hour care while confined to one of the defendants’ ECF or CLS homes; or
Earned and received a bonus.
The full complaint can be read below.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.