Clinic ordered to pay back wages

First Med cited by state for not paying overtime
Dec. 08, 2012 @ 12:51 AM

The medical clinic that serves the jail and is the target of two lawsuits involving care for inmates got in trouble with the federal Department of Labor for failing to pay overtime to its employees.

First Med Family Clinic owner Dr. Robert Maughon paid $22,240 in back wages to 14 clinic employees after an investigation by the department showed the business was not fully paying some employees for overtime and violated recordkeeping provisions.

In an interview Thursday, Maughon acknowledged the error and said he’d learned there was a difference in the way he could treat employees after his practice grew considerably over the past few years.

He said he has paid the back wages and has no issues with the department’s findings.

“I’ve got great employees. I’ve got good people working here and I paid them,” he said.

For most of First Med’s 24-year history, it was a small practice with a single location, he said. In the past few years, he acquired several new locations and expanded his staff, which now number more than 70 people.

In the past, he said, any inaccuracies had not come up as an issue for his employees because he gave them benefits, including health care through his office. It hadn’t been an issue with the Department of Labor because of the size of his staff, he said.

But his records came under more scrutiny as the practice grew, and after an audit the Department of Labor informed him he owed $22,240.

A press release from the department’s Wage and Hour Division found that First Med improperly classified salaried employees, including lab techs, receptionists and billing personnel, as being exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime requirements.

Because of that, they didn’t receive overtime compensation when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. The business also paid some hourly employees at the regular hourly rate for hours worked beyond 40 in a week. The business also failed to maintain records of hours worked, destroying the time sheets after employees were paid.

“Employers are legally obligated to maintain accurate records and to pay employees for all hours worked, including proper overtime compensation when hours exceed 40 in a workweek,” said Sandra Sanders, director of the Wage and Hour Division’s Nashville District Office. “This case should put other employers on notice. Simply putting employees on a salary does not need to pay them overtime.”

The release states First Med agreed to follow FLSA standards and pay the back wages. Maughon said he had turned over payroll records to his accountant to make sure the employees are properly paid and the records are maintained.

First Med provides medical services at the jail, and is the target of two lawsuits involving treatment of inmates at the jail.

Maughon was tossed as a defendant recently in a civil complaint in federal court involving the death of a man who had been suffering seizures, but the business and some personnel are still listed as defendants. In the second, First Med is accused of failing to render proper aid to an inmate who was paralyzed after an assault in the jail.

The doctor declined to common on the lawsuits.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com