Six former employees recently filed a complaint against LifeStance Health Group, Inc. claiming violations of state and federal labor laws including the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), FL Debt Collections Practices Act, and Usury Statute. The plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit are Emmanuella Armand, Nerilene Ballard, Charline Boufin-Tebbeu, Javier Cumerma, Kevin Kerrick, Tolulope Oduyejo-Williams – they are seeking justice for unfair practices forced upon them by their former employer and on behalf of other potential class action members.
LifeStance is a mental healthcare company that focuses on providing medical services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from many different health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering. Unfortunately, based on its business model, the Plaintiffs allege that LifeStance failed to pay them for the meaningful work they provide to LifeStance’s patients. Without the medical providers—psychiatric professionals and our Plaintiffs in this instance—LifeStance would not be able to provide the mental health care they boast. The lawsuit alleges violations of various state and federal laws, such as:
- Failure to receive minimum wage for all hours worked
- Not receiving overtime pay for hours over 40 worked per week
- Retaliatory behavior by the company against employees
- The creation of “False Debt” by the company which “claws back” employee wages
- Forced termination of employment
- Vague “Employment Agreements” that are unenforceable and against public policy
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 protects workers from mistreatment and requires all employers to generally pay employees fair wages and to provide additional compensation for overtime work. LifeStance is accused of violating these standards, and others, by failing to pay their employees the required wages and overtime pay for their hours worked.
According to the complaint, plaintiffs were non-exempt employees who received W2s, meaning that they were not independent contractors, nor were they otherwise exempt from minimum wage or overtime laws. Each plaintiff claims to have worked more than 40 hours per week regularly, which they should have been properly compensated for.
The FLSA clearly states that employees must be compensated for their work at a rate not less than minimum wage, and LifeStance disregarded this rule. Not only did LifeStance deny payment for time spent working, but they also added a stipulation that workers must pay back wages earned, through a “claw back provision” that created an insurmountable debt which could seldom be repaid. The unfairness of LifeStance’s policies led to workers feeling exploited and caused the employees to financially struggle due to the lack of compensation and the false debt LifeStance created.
Claw back wages refer to when an employee is paid a certain amount, but then the employer reclaims or retains some or all the wages for various reasons. Plaintiffs allege that LifeStance implemented the “claw back wage” so they could increase the number of providers working for them without having to pay out the full expense of employing all these providers. Unfortunately, their “agreement” ensured that very limited or no employees would receive their total compensation for their hours worked within their first 12 to 14 months. They were taking back wages that were due or owed to the plaintiffs for their work. This illegal method of compensating their providers caused multiple providers to resign from being employed by LifeStance which still led to the provider carrying the debt wherever they went. Essentially, the Plaintiffs worked a minimum of forty hours per week yet received very limited compensation (and sometimes none) for their labor. Because of the claw back wages, the providers’ paychecks were taken from them before it even hit their accounts. This unlawful violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is an example of LifeStance taking advantage of its workers in order to further its own financial gain.
Similarly, the Plaintiffs were required to kickback their wages to their employer. LifeStance applied unlawful deductions to the plaintiffs’ earned wages. Plaintiffs’ wages should have been provided “free and clear”, but instead appeared to be a repayment of a loan to all employees, amongst other things.
Further, LifeStance knowingly and frequently misclassified their providers’ incomes, so that they paid less than what their employees were entitled to receive.
Moreover, when LifeStance billed their patients’ insurance companies, the revenue percentage (like a commission) that was supposed to go to the provider for the patients they treated was not fully paid out.
They also failed to pay certain employees their supervisory wages, despite the responsibilities that were required of them and the provisions in the alleged “employment agreement”.
However, and most importantly, the employment agreement that LifeStance required their providers to sign is unlawful and unconstitutional—it truly forced employees into a form of indentured servitude to the point where the employee providers are essentially paying LifeStance for the privilege of working for the company.
This unfortunate situation highlights the need for companies like LifeStance to comply with employment laws, such as those outlined in the FLSA, so that the workforce can feel safe and secure while receiving fair wages. LifeStance should have taken into consideration the many unjust implications their practices could have on their employees, who were unable to receive compensation and had little recourse against such blatant disregard for legal standards governing workers’ rights. As described above, LifeStance’s practices allowed the company to collect debt from its providers for being given the opportunity to work for LifeStance, essentially forcing the providers to work nearly for free. In addition, LifeStance made multiple inappropriate revisions to the Plaintiffs’ paystubs which led to improper and additional tax liability.
Further complicating matters, the Plaintiffs would collect a negative income due to the fraudulent debt they accrued. The repayment terms of “the debt” or “the loan” were unclear, and changes were not appropriately disclosed or consented to by the Plaintiffs, which resulted in interest rate allowances of 18 percent or more.
LifeStance demanded payment of the debt from plaintiffs through various means (mail, email, and phone), which led to many resignations due to their hostile nature and accumulation rate over time – resulting in illegal garnishment practices at times. As a result of those experiences with LifeStance’s debt collection practices, Plaintiffs sued the company pursuant to the Florida Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
This law is designed to protect consumers from abusive debt collection practices by debt collectors or creditors seeking payment on a debt owed by an individual consumer or business entity. It states that no person can use deceptive or unfair means to collect debts such as falsely representing themselves as attorneys or government representatives to obtain money from consumers who may owe a debt or threaten arrest if a consumer does not pay what they owe immediately. Furthermore, it prohibits companies from engaging in any form of harassment while attempting to collect debts; this includes placing excessive phone calls or sending frequent emails or letters to pressure consumers into paying their outstanding accounts quickly.
At éclat Law, our employment law class action lawyers are committed to helping individuals stand up for their rights. Our team of experienced attorneys understand the complexities of class action lawsuits and have the knowledge and resources required to effectively represent you. Whether you are seeking justice against an employer’s illegal behavior or have been under an unlawful contract, give us a call at (407) 636-7004.