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Ligonier Township nursing home ordered to pay nearly $40,000 in back wages | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

Ligonier Township nursing home ordered to pay nearly $40,000 in back wages

Stephen Huba
| Thursday, February 21, 2019 12:52 p.m
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The operator of a Ligonier Township nursing home has paid nearly $40,000 in back wages to employees following an investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The investigation found that Bethlen Home of the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, doing business as Bethlen Communities Inc., violated the overtime and recordkeeping provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act between January 2016 and January 2018, the Labor Department said in a statement.

Specifically, Bethlen Communities, which operates a skilled nursing facility, a hospice and a retirement community near Ligonier Borough, failed to include workers’ shift bonuses when calculating their overtime rates of pay, the department said.

“Excluding these amounts from the calculation resulted in the employer paying overtime rates lower than those required by law,” the department said. “The employer also failed to maintain records of employee bonuses and hourly rates.”

Because of the violations, the 92 affected employees, most of them health care workers, were not paid time and a half when working overtime, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania in June. The complaint said Bethlen Home’s decision not to include shift differential bonuses and work anniversary bonuses when calculating overtime pay was “knowing and reckless.”

“Defendants were advised that these bonuses should have been included in the regular rate when calculating overtime, but declined to follow that advice,” the complaint said.

Bethlen Home Executive Director Amanda Atkinson did not return phone calls seeking comment. Bethlen attorney Timothy G. Hewitt could not be reached for comment.

The Labor Department said Bethlen Home paid $39,704 in back wages and “liquidated damages” pursuant to a consent judgment entered in U.S. District Court in December. The department did not announce the settlement until the wages and damages were actually paid, said spokeswoman Leni Fortson.

The department would not disclose what triggered the investigation but said investigations often are initiated by complaints to the department’s Wage and Hour Division, or WHD.

“In addition to complaints, WHD selects certain types of businesses or industries for investigation,” Fortson said. “The WHD targets low-wage industries, for example, because of high rates of violations or egregious violations, the employment of vulnerable workers, or rapid changes in an industry such as growth or decline.”

In addition to the payment of back wages, the consent judgment ordered Bethlen Home to keep adequate wage records and to not “take any retaliatory action” against employees who disclose alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The law, which dates back to 1938, requires that covered, non-exempt employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 per week.

Bethlen Home, founded as an orphanage in 1921 by the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America, describes itself on its website as a “faith-based, non-profit continuing care retirement community.” It is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.

Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, shuba@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
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