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Lawmakers Initiated Senior Care Crackdown over Wage Theft, Abuse

— January 9, 2020

Senior care industry is investigative for abusing workers and not paying sufficient wages.

Rep. Robert C. Scott, D-Va., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said he “intends to hold an oversight hearing early this year in which he will press Labor Department officials to crackdown on widespread exploitation” in the senior care home industry, primarily addressing wage theft.

“The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) investigation revealed an alarming rate of wage theft among senior residential care industry workers,” a congressional committee aide said. “CIR’s report will be a topic of discussion during future oversight hearings with the Department of Labor.”

In August, Scott sent a letter to Cheryl Stanton, administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, requiring a complete write up of all the ways the agency plans to protect workers.  The investigation revealed some workers have made as little as $2 per hour and have been exposed to an abusive on-the-job environment.  A few were even trafficked, and two reported having miscarriages after being overworked.  One facility administrator was charged along with other family members with withholding more than $8 million in wages over the course of a decade from 2009 through 2018 and has been criminally charged with raping a caregiver, records show.

Lawmakers Initiated Senior Care Crackdown over Wage Theft, Abuse
Photo by Юлія Вівчарик on Unsplash

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that the office would be holding center operators accountable for abusing workers and seniors in August of last year, “up to and including license revocation.”  The state’s Department of Social Services and Industrial Relations immediately commenced an effort to enforce regulations and have, to date, visited more than a dozen facilities.  Since the initiative launched, the department has also reported 66 outstanding wage theft judgments and sent letters to 51 centers.  Only ten have paid in full.

“The remaining 41 judgments are unresolved because facilities have closed or filed for bankruptcy, among other factors,” said Scott Murray, a spokesman for California’s Social Services Department.

One 53-bed facility, Amore Retirement Living, owned by the Krysella Trismeo Corporation, “had failed to provide employee injury coverage since 2013 and had not compensated 48 workers for overtime or allowed meal breaks for a 28-month period ending in October 2017,” according to the Labor Commissioner’s Office.

“This residential care facility required its workers to be available around the clock but didn’t pay them a just day’s wages,” California Labor Secretary Julie Su said. “In industries where employees are expected to work overtime or on call, California law requires that they be paid for all hours worked.  Anything less is wage theft.”  The California Fair Employment and Housing Department plans to roll out a plan to educate senior care employees on their labor rights and prosecute any senior care-home operators who violate the law.

“It’s absolutely shocking and appalling,” Judy Conti, government affairs director at the National Employment Law Project, said of the findings so far. “There is such a clear-cut need for federal intervention here, and the federal Department of Labor and Department of Justice should be investigating.”  Conti also said the Labor Department should “work with officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to ensure that no senior care facilities previously cited for labor violations or convicted of fraud continue to collect Medicaid reimbursements.”

Ruth Silver Taube, adjunct professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law and supervising attorney of its Workers’ Rights Clinic, added “I think there’s a culture of noncompliance.  For some care homes, there is a business model based on wage theft.  We need to change the business model to eliminate the widespread violations.”


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