It is one of the largest providers of elder care in the country.
And yet, as our Costa Mesa wage and hour dispute attorneys understand, when it came time to providing adequate compensation to those trusted to care for our most vulnerable citizens, the for-profit health care provider did everything it could to skirt employment laws and boost its bottom line.
These were the workers who were directly hands-on with elderly residents. They were charged with providing meals, making sure they took their medicines, helping them to the bathroom or changing their diapers, bathing them and turning them in their beds so they wouldn’t get sores. They cleaned the hallways and the restrooms and made sure the residents had clean beds.
These were individuals who were critical to the services for which the facility charged thousands of dollars monthly per patient.
But according to the lawsuit filed against the company, the workers weren’t afforded time to take regular meal breaks, as the state mandates. They weren’t given adequate time to take regularly-scheduled breaks during longer shifts, as is also required by law. When they worked more than 40 hours a week, they weren’t paid overtime. Nor were they compensated on days when they were required to come in on their own time to undergo training sessions.
All of these are very clear violations of state law.
The California Department of Industrial Relations requires that any non-salaried worker working in excess of eight hours daily in a 40-hour work period must be paid one-and-a-half times the regular rate for those hours, as well as for the first eight hours of a seventh consecutive work day. Employers must pay workers double for any hours worked in excess of 12 in a single work day and for any hours worked in excess of eight on the seventh consecutive day in a work week.
There are a number of exemptions to this provision, including for executive and administrative workers, drivers, airline workers, student nurses and actors. It also includes “personal attendants,” which would be those caring for elderly individuals – but only if those employees are working for a non-profit agency.
A recent joint investigation by ProPublica and PBS Frontline revealed that a number of top executives at Emeritus exchanged memos indicating one of the firm’s primary objectives was to reduce labor costs so that they could boost the company’s appeal to Wall Street investors. However, this led to under-staffing at a number of facilities across the country. That not only left many workers unhappy, it reportedly diminished the quality of care that patients were receiving. Many of the patients were suffering from dementia and other serious medical problems.
Emeritus, however, even in agreeing to the $2.2 million settlement agreement, has denied any wrongdoing.
The initial wage and hour claim was first brought by two workers at a single Southern California facility. However, the claim was later given class action status, and has grown to include thousands of workers across the state who were employed at the firm between 2007 and 2013.
In securing such a sizable settlement, the workers were able to show that such corner-cutting would not be tolerated.
Costa Mesa employment lawsuits can be filed with the help of the Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Workers Win $2 Million Settlement From Assisted Living Giant, Aug. 22, 2013, By Joe Sexton, ProPublica
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Costa Mesa Employment Lawyers: Firms Must Properly Classify Workers, Sept. 14, 2013, Costa Mesa Employment Lawyer Blog