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Charlotte Area News

U.S. Dept. of Labor Targets Pay Practices of NC Group Homes

An increasing number of complaints from workers at group homes and residential care facilities in North Carolina have led the U.S. Department of Labor to initiate a special investigation into the industry. The Department of Labor is organizing a "special strike force" - as they're calling it. But its members will be armed with adding machines - not guns - and they'll be randomly showing up at group homes and assisted living centers in Charlotte to audit payroll records. Department of Labor spokesman Michael Wald says the industry is of particular concern because it operates with slim margins and employs a lot of people at very close to minimum wage. "Low-wage workers have a real problem because if they have a problem with their pay or their employer, they really have few options - there's very little they can do it," says Wald. "What we find is that workers sometimes don't get paid for all the hours they work, or they receive only straight-time pay when they work more than 40 hours in the work week." In the coming months, the Department of Labor will randomly audit the payroll records of group homes and residential care facilities in the Charlotte and Raleigh areas, before eventually expanding statewide. Labor estimates show more than 7,000 people work in group homes and assisted living facilities across the state - 1,700 work in Charlotte - and many of earn the minimum wage of $7.25 and hour. Employers found to have short-shrifted workers on paychecks will be required to cover back wages for up to two years and may also face penalties.