Home care workers in Washington, D.C. filed a lawsuit against four Medicaid providers after alleging rampant violations of city wage and hour laws. The workers hope the lawsuit will end the violation of D.C.’s worker protections and recover back pay owed to them.
These are not new issues— in the last two years, home care workers in D.C. have filed three lawsuits against 11 other home care agencies.The agencies being accused could face liabilities totaling millions of dollars in back pay to thousands of workers.
In Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City, in a one week period in 2009, nearly 83% of home health care workers were not paid required overtime and 90% experienced an “off the clock” violation, where they worked before and/or after their shift without getting paid for that time, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project.
The most recent lawsuit in D.C. was filed against KBC, ASAP, Premium Select and ABA. It alleges workers were denied paid sick leave and the living wage mandated by D.C. law. The other lawsuits over the last two years alleged similar violations, which included forcing care providers to work without any pay during a major Medicaid fraud investigation that uncovered more than $78 million in illicit payments.
“I work between 70 and 100 hours a week, but my kids and I still rely on food pantries and soup kitchens,” said plaintiff Carl Wilson, a lifelong D.C. resident who has worked in home care for more than 22 years, in a press release. “We care for other people’s loved ones and we deserve to be able to take care of our own, but that’s impossible when agencies are stealing our wages and evading the law. For too long, home care agencies have been preying on their workers and our clients, and that’s got to stop. It’s why we’ve come together to fight our union rights and have a say in how long-term care works in the District.”
Before reaching trial, some of these lawsuits have prompted changes and forced some home care agencies to start allowing one hour of paid sick leave for every 37 hours worked.
“Laws mean nothing to workers and consumers unless they are actually enforced,” said attorney for the plaintiffs, Sara Faulman of Woodley & McGillivary LLC, in a press release. “By flouting the law, Medicaid agencies across D.C. are not only denying workers what they are owed, they are wasting taxpayer dollars. Together, D.C. caregivers are taking a stand for clients and their families and winning real improvements that are holding employers accountable to city wage laws and statutes.”
Written by Alana Stramowski