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Elder Care Workers Receive $2.2M Settlement for Underpayment

At one of the largest elder care chains in the country, workers were routinely underpaid for their work at dozens of facilities in California, according to a lawsuit that was recently settled for $2.2 million.

Our Wilton Manors nursing home neglect attorneys know that the chain involved, Emeritus, has dozens of branches in Florida, including in:

–Bonita Springs
–Boynton Beach;
–Deerfield Beach;
–Fort Myers;
–Jensen Beach;
–Lake Mary;
–New Port Richey;
–Orange Park;
–Port Orange;
–St. Augustine;
–Winter Springs.

While no similar claims of improper payments have thus far been made at any of the Florida branches, it’s quite possible that such a claim could arise, particularly if the company fails to overhaul the corporate policies that allowed such action to go unmitigated in the first place.

If you’re wondering what worker rights have to do with nursing home neglect, the answer is: A lot. It’s been well-documented that one of the prime reasons that nursing home neglect and negligence arises is because workers are overworked and underpaid. When there are too few workers and they aren’t being paid enough as it is, something is going to suffer. Usually, it’s the level of care received by the patients.

Even if you have staffers who are committed to caring for their patients the best they can, they are only able to do so much at one time.

While large-scale, privatized elder care providers like Emeritus are charging residents and family members a premium for quality care, residents aren’t likely to get it if the staff isn’t being fairly compensated.

In this case, ProPublica reports, the aides and support staff, who all worked as non-salaried employees, say that they were in charge of providing care for hundreds of seniors on a daily basis. And yet, not only were they shortchanged in their paychecks, they allege the chain broke state laws related to required meal breaks and rest periods.

Staffers say they put in long hours and yet were rarely if ever paid overtime. On their off-days, they were called in to submit to mandatory training sessions. However, they weren’t paid for this time.

ProPublica had recently launched an investigation with Frontline and found that top executives at the company spelled out the key to sustaining financial success was keeping labor costs down.

Of course, it’s reasonable that any for-profit firm would be interested in maintaining a profit. However, when the business in question is modeled around providing care to some of our most vulnerable citizens, the money-making aspect needs to take a backseat.

Still, it’s not as if the firm was struggling to get by. Some families report paying more than $7,000 monthly at Emeritus facilities for their loved ones to receive care.

Emeritus has approximately 500 branches across the country, and the firm maintains that it adequately staffs its facilities and pays its workers.

But the California lawsuit and the ProPublica investigation appear to indicate differently.

Under the terms of the $2.2 settlement agreement, the company will pay workers who were employed at certain California centers from 2007 to 2013. Primarily, these were individuals who were in charge of feeding and bathing the residents, administering certain medications and performing certain maintenance and cleaning duties.

These were not individuals who were earning high wages as it was. Many were paid minimum wage – or just above it. Industry analysts say that by paying workers low wages and attempting to skirt basic employment law requirements, companies like Emeritus end up with workers who aren’t well-trained, who are tired and who aren’t happy in their positions. It should be no surprise that in the end, it’s the quality of patient care that suffers.

Although the case was originally filed by two workers at a single facility, the suit was granted class-action status, and know several hundred workers at some 50 California facilities are entitled to compensation.

Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Workers Win $2 Million Settlement From Assisted Living Giant, Aug. 22, 2013, By Joe Sexton, ProPublica

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Abuse; When Authorities are Slow to Act, Sept. 1, 2013, Wilton Manors Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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