Cohen Milstein represents “direct care” workers, who provide home care for individuals with disabilities, in a class action lawsuit alleging that Public Partnerships, LLC (PPL) violated federal and Pennsylvania state law when it denied or underpaid overtime wages to direct care workers it employed. This lawsuit seeks to hold PPL liable for these wages as one of the workers’ employers.
On August 20, 2018, the District Court granted conditional certification for FLSA collective action. The ruling can be accessed here. On September 5, 2018, the Court entered an order approving a revised copy of the notice. A copy of the order and the notice approved by the Court is here.
Notice was sent out in August of 2018 and over 4,900 past and present employees of Public Partnerships LLC opted-in to this collective action. During the discovery period, which ended in February 2018, depositions took place and documents and data were produced.
On March 8, 2019, PPL filed a Motion for Summary Judgment asking the Court to dismiss our case, arguing that it is not an employer of the direct care workers. We filed our opposition, arguing that PPL fits the legal definition of a “joint employer” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). On January 28, 2020, Judge Schmehl of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania issued his order granting defendant PPL’s motion for summary judgment. We strongly disagreed with the Judge’s decision and appealed.
On December 7, 2020, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed and remanded to the District Court, concluding that there is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether PPL is a joint employer. Because “reasonable minds could come to different conclusions on the issue,” the Third Circuit held that PPL was not entitled to summary judgment. On February 3, 2021, the Third Circuit denied PPL’s request for a rehearing, thereby upholding its December ruling and reaffirming our successful appeal. The case now goes back to the District Court to be litigated.
Direct care workers provide care to ensure the patients they serve can live safely in their own homes. They provide assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and toileting; prepare meals and assist with feeding; do housework; ensure patients take their medications and assist with arranging medical appointments and transportation for appointments. Without their hard work over many hours, the individuals they serve would likely be in nursing homes. Much as they care for their clients, the work they do is involved, and they deserve to be paid for all hours worked, including at overtime rates when they work over 40 hours per week, as they so often do.
This putative class action filed on May 11, 2017 alleges that the defendant, PPL, violated federal law and Pennsylvania state law when it denied or underpaid overtime wages to direct care workers it employed. The case further alleges that, as the plaintiff’s primary or joint employer, PPL was responsible for paying these wages.The named plaintiff, Ralph Talarico, seeks unpaid wages and liquidated damages for himself and all other similarly situated direct care workers.
The Court denied a preliminary motion for summary judgment filed at the beginning of the case, permitting the case to proceed to discovery. At the close of discovery, defendant filed a new motion for summary judgment for which a hearing took place on July 10, 2019. On January 28, 2020, the District Court granted defendant PPL’s motion for summary judgment. Our Third Circuit appeal of that decision was successful and, on December 7, 2020, the case was remanded to the District Court. Subsequently, PPL petitioned the Third Circuit to re-hear the case, but on February 3, 2021, the appellate court denied PPL’s request for rehearing, thereby upholding its December ruling and re-affirming our successful appeal. The case will now go back to the District Court to be litigated further.
The case is styled: Ralph Talarico v. Public Partnerships, LLC, Case No. 5:17-cv-02165, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, and Arnold, Beyer, and Katz Law Firm.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is This a Class Action? What Does that Mean?
This case is both a potential class action under state law and a potential collective action under federal law. Both class and collective actions provide a mechanism for a group of workers with similar claims to litigate those claims together in one case, and both require Court approval to proceed on a class basis. We will be seeking certification in the near future. The federal claims proceed under a collective action which only includes individuals who consent to join the case, as described below. The state claims, if certified by the court, will include all workers in Pennsylvania who fall within the class definition.
Am I Eligible for the Federal FLSA Claim?
You may have a claim under federal law if you worked overtime (more than 40 hours per week) for PPL as a direct care worker within the past three years.
Am I Eligible for the State Law Claims?
You may have a claim under Pennsylvania state law if you worked overtime (over 40 hours per week) as a direct care worker for PPL any time after May 11, 2014.
What if PPL Told Me That It Was Not My Employer? Can I still Join This Case?
We understand that PPL has informed direct care workers that the clients they serve are their employer, not PPL. However, ultimately the law determines who qualifies as an employer, so PPL can’t avoid the issue by simply telling you its position. In many circumstances there can be two people or companies who are “joint employers.” One of the central disputes in this lawsuit is whether PPL legally qualifies as a joint employer, and thus is liable to pay overtime. If you otherwise qualify for this case, you may join regardless of what PPL told you about who your employer was.
What if I Was a Live-In Direct Care Worker, Can I Still Join This Case?
We understand that PPL has informed live-in direct care workers that they are not entitled to overtime. However, the exemption for live-in care workers only applies to the household receiving services; if the direct care worker is employed by another company, like PPL, then the exemption does not apply. In this case, Plaintiffs assert that PPL qualifies as your employer or joint employer, and thus the exemption does not apply. If you otherwise qualify for this case, you may join regardless of what PPL told you about the exemption for live-in workers. Ultimately the Court will determine if PPL is your joint employer and must pay overtime.
How Do I Join This Case?
Please contact Cohen Milstein by calling 202-408-4600 or by emailing PADirectCareWorkers@cohenmilstein.com if you are interested in more information about this lawsuit.
What About Retaliation?
The law prohibits your employer from retaliating against you for exercising your rights under the FLSA by joining a lawsuit for unpaid overtime. If you believe you have suffered retaliation after joining this lawsuit, please contact us immediately.
Do I Have To Pay Anything?
No. We are handling this case on a contingency basis, so we will only be paid if the lawsuit is successful in obtaining a settlement, final judgment, or award, and our payment will come only out of that settlement, final judgment, or award, and is subject to approval by the Court.