Man clocking in at work.

The owner of three Michigan nursing homes owes more than $69,000 in back wages after regularly switching the employment status of 45 managers from hourly to salaried to evade overtime pay, according to a federal investigation. 

The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recovered the wages for employees at the Detroit-area facilities after an investigation found that owner Amee Patel paid hourly wages when the managers worked fewer than 40 hours per week but paid salaried wages when the workers exceeded 40 hours, a department press release issued Tuesday said. The facilities are Beaconshire Nursing Center, Westwood Nursing Center, and Chesaning Nursing Center.

The division also assessed $7,938 in civil penalties for repeated violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A 2018 investigation found Patel failed to pay drivers for all travel and wait times. In addition, she failed to pay employees for attending mandatory trainings in 2015. 

“Business operators cannot casually decide to pay workers as salaried in some weeks and hourly in others,” said Wage and Hour Division District Director Timolin Mitchell. “The owner of these Detroit area nursing centers’ put her bottom line before the needs of healthcare workers, making it more difficult for them to care for themselves and their families.”

Wage and Hour infractions have been a focal point of the administration. In February 2022, McKnight’s Long-Term News reported on the division’s plan to add 100 investigators to ramp up its enforcement team. Even before then, though, the agency had been aggressive in seeking out bad actors.

In June 2022, Petersen Health Care, an Illinois-based nursing home operator, settled a $3 million wage violation regarding overtime wages to more than 3,000 caregivers. A company spokesperson told McKnight’s at the time that while they have “always paid … employees fairly and equitably for all time worked … the current economic environment dictated settlement.”

In 2017, an Indiana-based company agreed to pay nearly 600 workers back wages and damages after allegedly failing to calculate overtime rates correctly. Accusations against Ide Management Group LLC included ignoring nondiscretionary bonuses and shift-differentials, McKnight’s reported.

The investigation against Patel found her company owed $17,173 in back wages to 12 Beaconshire employees; $14,205 in back wages for 21 employees at Westwood; and $3,133 in back wages to 12 employees at Chesaning. The company also paid an equal amount in liquidated damages, according to the press release. Patel could not be reached for comment.