Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Tuesday that his office reached an agreement with a Canoga Park-based home care provider to resolve wage theft allegations.
“Hard-working men and women have the right to a minimum wage and overtime,” Feuer said. “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.”
Under the terms of the stipulated final judgment, Emelyn Nishi and her corporations, Health Alliance Nurses Corp. and Hand Homecare Provider Inc., will pay $250,000 into a restitution fund which can be accessed by the companies’ employees by filing a claim. The defendants will also pay $100,000 in civil penalties and costs.
Feuer’s office alleged caregivers employed by Nishi’s companies were pressured to falsify time records to avoid overtime payments; threatened with termination or blacklisting within the industry; prohibited from discussing rates directly with clients; and threatened with exorbitant contractual penalties for entering into a direct hire position with clients. Caregivers were misclassified as independent contractors so the provider could avoid paying federal and state payroll taxes and to avoid government investigations, the city attorney alleged.
The complaint filed in 2017 alleged that over a four-year period, the defendants employed 200 or more workers, mostly Filipino immigrants, and charged families between $170 and $250 per day for 24-hour in-home domestic care, though employees were generally paid $100 to $125 per shift, which comes to as little as $5.50 per hour or less.
As part of the settlement, the defendants were placed under an injunction for seven years, and must comply with all wage and hour laws and Home Care Organizations laws and regulations; hire all caregivers as W-2 employees rather than as independent contractors; and make other changes while submitting to audits conducted every six months for a period of five years.
“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,” said Aquilina Versoza-Soriano, the center’s executive director. “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.”