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U.S. seizes funds from New London home care provider over pay practices

U.S. marshals last month seized more than $148,000 from the corporate bank account of a New London home health care provider in a dispute over back wages and liquidated damages the government had ordered the provider to pay.

In a news release Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced the money was taken after Care at Home, owned by Dan and Suzanne Karp, reneged on a payment agreement outlined in a consent order signed Sept. 17, 2021, in New Haven by U.S. District Judge Alvin Thompson.

The judge ordered Care at Home to pay $126,250 in back wages and liquidated damages to 51 employees within 30 days. Earlier, on Jan. 7, 2021, the judge ordered the defendants to pay $22,413 in attorneys’ fees.

The Labor Department had sued Care at Home in 2018 over alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The alleged violations, involving overtime pay and deductions for lodging and food, occurred in 2015 and 2016.

According to the news release, the defendants’ failure to comply with the consent order led the department to seek and obtain a contempt order against them. On Dec. 14, U.S. marshals seized the $148,663 from Care at Home’s account at a People’s United Bank branch.

“The defendants’ failure to pay their workers properly and their repeated refusal to obey court orders are unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Maia Fisher, the department’s Boston-based regional solicitor of labor, said in the release. “The U.S. Department of Labor will not only pursue wages owed to employees up to the point of obtaining a judgment, but also will take appropriate legal steps, when warranted, to hold employers in contempt and seize their assets to satisfy those judgments.”

Dan Karp said Thursday he had no prior knowledge that Care at Home was in violation of a court order or that funds would be seized from its account.

“Care at Home made every effort during the relevant time period covered by the inquiry to comply with the provisions of the FLSA, which were new and, in some areas, in conflict with state law,” the company said in a statement. “Care at Home was guided by and relied upon publications issued by both federal and state authorities regarding its pay practices. Care at Home did not willfully or intentionally violate the FLSA or purposefully fail to pay its caregivers their proper wages.”

The company said it was guided at all times by its attorney, Vincent Avery of the firm FordHarrison.

“At no time during the engagement was Care at Home leadership made aware of any failure to obey court orders, or the seizure of funds, but rather remained confident that the case would receive its due process and would proceed through the normal legal course,” the statement continued.

Karp said Care at Home, which serves families in southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, is dedicated to the New London community, its employees “and the amazing care they provide every day to the people we serve. We also take seriously our compliance with all federal and state laws ..."

 "Going forward, we want to assure the community that we are and will remain in full compliance,” he said.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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