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Baltimore home-care worker seeks unpaid overtime

Similar lawsuits from domestic workers becoming more common, lawyers say

(iStock.com/iDrutu)

(iStock.com/iDrutu)

A Baltimore woman who worked 72 hours each week as an at-home companion has filed suit against her former employer seeking approximately $35,000 in damages, including unpaid overtime.

Jeanette Quick was hired by Barbara Kornblatt in 2014 to serve as an at-home companion to Kornblatt’s husband, David, according to a complaint filed in Baltimore City Circuit Court

David W. Kornblatt is founder and chairman of the board of Baltimore-based The Kornblatt Co., a commercial real estate manager. He is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Quick alleges she provided unskilled personal care to David Kornblatt – including grocery shopping, picking up medicine and other tasks – on a 24-hour basis beginning at 9 a.m. each Thursday and ending at 9 a.m. Monday but was not paid overtime.

The complaint, filed last week, alleges violations of the Maryland Wage Payment Collection Act and the Maryland Wage and Hour Laws.

Quick was paid $26.50 for each hour worked but routinely worked 72 hours in a seven-day week and worked as many as 120 hours in one week, according to the complaint.

“Domestic workers have long been exploited,” said Stephen B. Lebau, one of Quick’s lawyers.

Quick’s complaint also alleges that she asked Barbara Kornblatt to pay her overtime and overheard a conversation between Kornblatt and her accountant where the accountant also recommended Quick be paid overtime.

Quick was fired last month, according to the complaint.

A message left at The Kornblatt Co. about the lawsuit was not returned.

The case is Jeanette Quick v. Barbara Kornblatt, 24C15003794.

Presumed to have knowledge

Lebau, of Lebau & Neuworth LLC in Baltimore, said failing to pay overtime benefits or withhold federal and state taxes and other fees is a longstanding problem for workers who put in long hours working in their employer’s home. Lebau & Neuworth has filed four such cases so far in 2015, he said.

Domestic workers tend to be disadvantaged in some way, Lebau said, and usually are not aware of their rights.

Sally Dworak-Fisher, an attorney with the Public Justice Center, said home care is an industry growing rapidly to meet the needs of the aging population, but workers tend to be underpaid and many don’t receive overtime when it is deserved.

Workers may be reluctant to complain because they fear retaliation and decide that any paycheck is better than no paycheck, Dworak-Fisher said. Some wait to look into legal action until after they leave a job.

“People don’t want to complain, often,” she said.

Employers also may be unaware of the requirements of the law, Dworak-Fisher added, but once they hire someone they are presumed to have knowledge. Others may take a calculated risk and hope their employee does not complain, she said.

The Public Justice Center conducts seminars for workers to inform them of their rights and also assists with legal representation to attempt to discourage employers from violating the law, according to Dworak-Fisher.

“By bringing litigation, word gets out,” she said.

Lebau said word of mouth can lead to lawsuits after someone is fired, for example, and a friend suggests they were entitled to wages they didn’t receive.