LOS ANGELES – Continuing his aggressive fight against alleged wage theft, City Attorney Mike Feuer today announced that his office has successfully reached an agreement with a Canoga Park-based home care provider to resolve allegations the company routinely failed to pay its employees minimum wage and overtime.
"Hard-working men and women have the right to a minimum wage and overtime." said Feuer. "No worker should be forced into poverty because an employer denies them these rights, as we alleged when we filed this case. This settlement sends a strong message to employers across our city that we take allegations of wage theft seriously and my office will fight to ensure all workers are paid what the law demands."
"We see this case as the first major victory in implementing the Bill of Rights, which extended the right to overtime to this industry back in 2013," shares Sarah Leadem, Director of Workers Rights for the California Domestic Workers Coalition. "This settlement is a win for all domestic workers and is part of a broader effort of domestic workers who are intensifying their organizing efforts across the state to make their rights a reality."
Under the terms of the Stipulated Final Judgment, Emelyn Nishi and her corporations Health Alliance Nurses Corp., and Hand Homecare Provider, Inc., have agreed to pay $250,000 in restitution to be deposited in a Restitution Fund administered by a qualified third party administrator. Employees of the companies who have worked: one or more 24-hour shifts; more than nine hours in a single shift without overtime; or more than 45 hours per week without additional overtime will be contacted to file a claim for restitution. Funds will be subsequently distributed following a 90 day period for all claims to be filed.
The defendants have also agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and costs.
"After organizing for nearly three years to win dignity from Health Alliance Nurses Corporation, caregivers together with the Pilipino Workers Center celebrate this settlement as a victory," added Aquilina Versoza-Soriano, Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center. "This resolution sends a message to the private homecare industry that these common employment practices are illegal and that agencies must come into compliance with the law - both to honor the dignity of caregivers and to ensure quality of care for consumers."
The defendants are also placed under a seven year injunction and must comply with all wage and hour laws and Home Care Organizations laws and regulations. Defendants must pay overtime for over nine hours worked in a day or more than 45 hours worked in a week. Defendants must also hire all caregivers as W-2 employees rather than independent contractors. Defendants also agreed to abolish 24 hour shifts, to limit all shifts to no more than 12 hours per shift, and to refrain from advising caregivers to falsify their timesheets. A written report of audits conducted every six months will be required for a period of five years to verify compliance.
The complaint, filed in 2017, alleged that during the last four years, the defendants employed two hundred workers or more, mostly Filipino immigrants. Defendants allegedly charged between $170 and $250 per day for 24-hour in-home domestic care to families. However, these employees allegedly were generally paid only $100 to $125 per shift, equating to as little as $5.50 per hour or less. The defendants allegedly pressured their employed caregivers to falsify time records to avoid overtime payments, and routinely threatened them with termination or blacklisting within the industry.
"They were robbing us of our hard earned wages," Josephine Biclar, one of the caregivers who joined the campaign explains. "This is a victory not only for me and my family, but for all caregivers. It sends a message that we should not stay silent out of fear. We must educate ourselves and ask questions. And when we stand up for our rights, we win!"
The defendants allegedly also prohibited caregivers from discussing rates directly with clients and often threatened exorbitant contractual penalties for entering into a direct hire position with clients. Defendants allegedly misclassified their caregiver employees as independent contractors to avoid paying federal and state payroll taxes and to sidestep government investigations.
Feuer urged other workers who may be the victims of wage theft to come forward and file a report directly with his office by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 213-978-1868. Feuer emphasized that wage theft victims may report to his office anonymously.
Deputy City Attorneys Ben Delfin and Miguel Bahamon of Feuer’s Affirmative Litigation Unit successfully handled the litigation.