A Virginia staffing agency that serves long-term care providers will pay more than $7.2 million in back wages and damages after intentionally violating federal laws and denying 1,105 certified nursing aides, licensed practical nurses and registered nurses overtime wages they had earned, a federal court ruled Thursday. 

Medical Staffing of America, doing business as Steadfast Medical Staffing, must pay at least $3.6 million in back wages and at least $3.6 million in liquidated damages to the workers, the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia-Norfolk Division said.

The company serves assisted living communities, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities, as well as other types of healthcare settings nationwide, according to its website.

“When employers misclassify employees as independent contractors and fail to pay workers their hard-earned wages, the U.S. Department of Labor will hold them legally accountable,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh stated. “In this case, Medical Staffing of America LLC willfully violated the law and shortchanged more than 1,100 aides and nurses of their rightful wages. The court’s judgement means we can finally recover these essential workers’ wages.”

The company’s actions go back to at least Aug. 18, 2015, according to investigators. By misclassifying the workers, the staffing agency paid them straight-time wages instead of time-and-a-half wages for time worked more than 40 hours in a workweek. Further, the company also did not maintain accurate records of total weekly hours worked, according to the Labor Department. Both actions violated the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“The court sent an unequivocal message to Steadfast and other healthcare industry employers that the Solicitor of Labor and the Wage and Hour Division will work together to recover stolen wages when employers violate the law,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said. “The U.S. Department of Labor will not hesitate to bring legal action, pursuing all available remedies, when it finds that an employer has willfully violated the law.”

Staffing agency issues are not limited to the Steadfast case. Leaders from the country’s largest long-term care associations on Tuesday wrote to White House COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator Jeffrey Zients to ask for “assistance with an anticompetitive practice with certain nurse-staffing agencies that is making it challenging for people who need care to access it.”

“Providers have little choice but to pay the exorbitant prices, and hope that the nurse-staffing agency does not poach their current staff,” wrote executives from LeadingAge, the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living and 10 other healthcare organizations.

Steadfast Medical Staffing had not responded to a request for comment from the McKnight’s Business Daily by the production deadline.