BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — The United States Department of Labor is investigating a Melbourne-based health care firm that has not paid some of its employees in more than a month, officials confirmed Friday.
Employees with Emerge Healthcare, LLC. first came forward in late July, providing documents and internal company emails that proved executives had failed to pay them anything for their work since June 17. Executives only completed that payroll period on July 18, though some employees and ex-employees claimed checks provided to them bounced.
The employees said they faced financial ruin, maxed out credit cards and mountains of medical bills due to the company’s health care plan being suspended, even though premiums continued to be collected.
Executives did not dispute most of the allegations, promising to pay employees every dollar they were owed and restore benefits as soon as they had the funds to do so. They repeatedly referred to the amount of money owed as small and said the problem would be quickly resolved – promises that still have not been fulfilled.
“They keep saying that they’re trying to get money together to pay us and we still haven’t seen a penny,” one worker said last month.
Because of the open investigation, Department of Labor staffers within the Wage and Hour Division refused to answer most of the questions emailed to them, including when their investigation began. The department’s website said investigations are started when notified of a potential legal violation.
However, a department spokesman was able to speak broadly when asked if Emerge Healthcare broke the law. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, the spokesman wrote, all non-exempt employees – anyone who qualifies for overtime pay – must be paid at least the minimum wage and overtime due on their regularly scheduled payroll date.
“Failure to do so constitutes a violation of the FLSA,” a handout linked by the spokesman stated.
When asked, multiple employees and ex-employees said they were considered non-exempt.
Emerge’s CEO said neither he nor his managers had ever knowingly broken the law during an interview with WFTV, though they later said the question was better addressed to an attorney. On Thursday, he sent out a memo to current and former team members addressing the continued lack of payment.
“We continue to work with investors toward funding,” the CEO wrote. “Unfortunately this is not a science that is specific, and date driven.”
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