A lawsuit alleging that home care aides weren’t appropriately paid for 24-hour service can move forward, and a union contract doesn’t require that complaints outlined in the case be brought before an arbitrator, a New York judge ruled this week.
The class action lawsuit, filed on behalf of several thousand workers employed through the Chinese-American Planning Council Home Attendant Program, claims that temporary home care aides were paid $137 per 24-hour shift, the New York Law Journal reports. Justice Carol Emeade said the state’s Wage Parity Act calls for $10 per hour for each hour of a 24-hour shift, plus overtime if a home health care aide doesn’t live at the patient’s home.
The claims aren’t pre-empted by federal statutes, nor are the employees required to submit the dispute to arbitration under their union contract, Emeade said. The workers are therefore justified in filing the lawsuit and the case won’t be dismissed, she stated.
The case, along with two others currently under consideration at the appellate level, could determine pay rates for “many tens of thousands” of home health aides in the New York City area, Michael Taubenfeld, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the New York Law Journal.
An attorney representing the Planning Council declined the Law Journal’s request for comment.
The lead plaintiff on the suit, Lai Chan, said she consistently worked anywhere between three and five consecutive 24-hour shifts each week and usually didn’t receive compensation after she hit the 12-hour mark during these shifts. She also said she didn’t receive overtime pay for time she worked over 40 hours in any given week.
Meanwhile, the Planning Council argued that the union contract’s arbitration clause meant the issue needed to be submitted to arbitration. The Planning Council also contended that the federal Labor Management Relations Act requires consideration of the claims in federal court rather than at the state level, because they include the terms of a collective bargaining agreement.
Emeade rejected both arguments, affirming that there was no “clear and unmistakable language” that would make the arbitration clause effective. She said the workers’ pay rate was set, in part, under a collective bargaining agreement, but that “no substantial analysis of the [contract] is required to determine whether defendant’s payments complied” with state and local law.
The lawsuit comes as wage and overtime protections for home care workers are on the line. The U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that the Department of Labor has the authority to extend such benefits to nearly 2 million home care workers, but leaders of home care industry associations that challenged the original DOL rules have indicated their intent to seek Supreme Court review.
Written by Kourtney Liepelt