Home Health Company Forced to Pay Back Wages to 233 Employees

As restitution for violating state wage laws, a Massachusetts home health care company and its owner have been ordered to pay $162,000 in penalties and back wages to more than 230 employees.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced Monday that Worcester-based Pinnacle Home Healthcare Services Inc. and owner Pauline Mwangi failed to pay caregivers their wages in a timely manner. Massachusetts law requires employers to pay their employees all wages earned within six days of the end of a pay period.

The attorney general’s office made its announcement after it had launched an investigation following a tip from a Pinnacle employee, who claimed the company issued checks that didn’t compensate her for specific hours she worked.

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The investigation included an audit of Pinnacle’s payroll records from September 2016 through November 2017, which showed late and underpaid wages, in addition to discrepancies between hours, worked and hours reported on employee timesheets.

“Home health aides provide thousands of elderly and disabled residents in Massachusetts with the care they need for daily living,” Healey said in a press release announcing the news. “We’re pleased that we were able to help Pinnacle employees get back the wages they earned.”

Pinnacle Home Healthcare Services Inc. provides a variety of care services in the home, including physical therapy, medication management, wound care, nutrition education and support for activities of daily living, among several other offerings.

Pinnacle did not respond to requests for comments from Home Health Care News.

Providers being forced to pay back wages and make restitution to employees may become a more common legal trend in the early part of 2020 as the industry shifts from the current payment system to the Patient-Driven Groupings Model (PDGM).

PDGM is projected to have an immediate impact on cash flow — which could be exacerbated further if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) moves forward with its proposal to phase out Requests for Anticipated Payment (RAPs). In some instances, providers could be left with too little cash on hand to pay staff.

In a move not related to PDGM, more than 49,000 home health care workers in Illinois recently received a combined $30.7 million in back pay from the state of Illinois.

News of Pinnacle Home Healthcare having to pay restitution to employees comes roughly three weeks after a Michigan-based home health patient recruiter was sentenced 60 months in prison for her role in a scheme involving $1.5 million in fraudulent Medicare claims.

On June 26, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Sophia Eggleston was sentenced and ordered to pay approximately $1.5 million in restitution after being found guilty of one count of conspiracy to receive health care kickbacks, and two counts of receipt of health care kickbacks in November 2018.

Eggleston received kickbacks for referring Medicare beneficiaries to a home health agency that then submitted fraudulent claims.

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