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Filipino caregivers in SF recover unpaid wages

/ 07:12 AM December 22, 2013

FILE PHOTO

SAN FRANCISCO—Workers from three San Francisco care homes celebrated their recent settlement agreements on Dec.18, International Migrants Day, after winning their months-long claims against their employers, totaling more than $800,000 in unpaid wages.

Filipino caregivers from Sunset Gardens, Nacario’s Home of San Francisco and Veal’s Residential Care Homes joined other workers and their supporters to raise awareness about wage theft in the industry and the rights of all workers regardless of their immigration status.

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“Over the last few years, the Filipino Community Center has proudly supported Filipino caregivers and also hotel and restaurant workers in reclaiming over $1 million in unpaid wages,” stated Mario de Mira, FCC’s workers rights program coordinator.

“We congratulate these Filipino caregivers in particular for their victory in asserting their rights in an industry that takes advantage of workers, especially immigrant workers.”

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Filing their claims with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement (OLSE), the workers faced conditions similar to many other residential care home workers. Caring for the elderly and disabled, caregivers sometimes work nearly 24-hours per day, but they are rarely paid the legally mandated minimum wage, overtime, or double time for these extended work schedules.

“The Sunset Gardens employees worked extremely long hours cooking, cleaning and caring for the residents,” added Donna Levitt, manager of the City’s Office of Labor Standards Enforcement. “They must be paid no less than minimum wage and overtime for their work.”

Together with City Attorney Dennis Herrera, OLSE has now reached settlements and verbal agreements with seven residential care facilities over the last two years, recovering a total of over $1.5 million in wages.

“This case and six others involving residential senior care facilities should send a strong message to would-be wage cheats that there is no profit in breaking the law,” Herrera said.

“I’m very grateful to our partners on this case and others, including the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, the Wage Justice Center, the Employment Law Center, the Workplace Justice Initiative, the California Department of Industrial Relations Bureau of Field Enforcement and the Filipino Community Center, which has done a phenomenal job of organizing care workers and helping bring cases to OLSE’s attention.”

During the labor dispute, the Sunset Gardens’ owners, the Tanato family, initiated the sale of their personal and business properties and told others that they would be leaving the country. OLSE and the City Attorney co-counseled with the Wage Justice Center, the Employment Law Center, and the Workplace Justice Initiative to pursue the workers’ claims and ensure that the Tanatos did not escape justice.

“So often, low-income, immigrant workers fail to see the wages to which they are entitled. For them, the law is nothing but words on paper. But these workers fought to realize their rights, and, by doing so, showed what can be done when government and the community come together in the fight for wage justice, “ said Jay Shin, an attorney with The Wage Justice Center.

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The State of California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE)/Bureau of Field Enforcement (BOFE) also got involved and visited the care home. With all of this attention, the Tanatos and their relatives who owned the Nacario’s Home of San Francisco negotiated to settle the cases against them and finally pay their workers.

“We are honored to have been able to stand alongside these brave workers who stood up for their most basic right: to be paid for their work,” said Carole Vigne, the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center’s attorney for the plaintiffs. “We hope this settlement will also serve as an example to other workers whose rights have been violated so that they too can find justice.”

Added Charlotte Noss of Workplace Justice Initiative, “The home care industry is rife with this kind of abuse and exploitation, especially of low-wage and immigrant workers. It should be clear to all employers that there will be consequences if employees are not paid what they are owed under the law. ”

This community and city-supported worker struggle occurred while the city’s Wage Theft Task Force was developing and implementing some of its recommendations to strengthen the city’s enforcement of SF Labor Laws

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The caregivers’ victory also comes at a time when the city is considering a potential increase of the SF minimum wage to $15/hour, and as advocates vow to work on needed improvements to workplace conditions and patient care in the expanding care home industry.

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TAGS: care homes, care industry, Caregivers, Filipino caregivers, International Migrants Day, minimum wage, Nacario’s Home of San Francisco, San Francisco, stolen wages, Sunset Gardens, Veal’s Residential Care Homes, workers’ rights
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