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PJC represents home health care worker in wage theft appeal

February 29, 2012 -- For over a year, her employer had denied her overtime pay. This home health care worker had consistently put in well over 40 hours a week, but her employer had misclassified her as an independent contractor to avoid its legal obligation to pay 1.5 times the regular wage due to employees for overtime. After she left the position, she eventually filed suit against her former employer, but the trial court ruled that she was not entitled to overtime pay based on the mistaken belief that federal law preempts Maryland’s Wage and Hour Law. 

On February 29, the Public Justice Center filed a brief in the Maryland Court of Special Appeals in Peters v. Early Healthcare Giver, Inc., on her behalf. Tom Davies, the PJC’s Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr. Appellate Advocacy Fellow, is representing her on appeal. The brief explains that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act does not preempt state laws that provide greater protection to workers, as Maryland’s Wage and Hour Law does. The brief also asks the Maryland court to reject a series of rulings by federal courts that have mistakenly held that Maryland’s Wage Payment and Collection Law does not cover overtime pay. That law is an important tool for fighting wage theft because it allows an employee to recover three times the amount of wages that were unlawfully withheld, if the employer did not have a good-faith basis for withholding the money. The Maryland General Assembly reaffirmed in 2010 that the Wage Payment and Collection Law applies to overtime pay, but the federal courts have continued to deny such claims. This appeal presents an opportunity for the Maryland courts to correct the federal courts’ mistakes about workers’ rights under Maryland law.
 


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