A New York-based home care agency is being placed under the microscope for its treatment of immigrant workers.
Allcare Homecare Agency Inc. allegedly threatened to report immigrant workers to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents when they complained about unpaid wages, according to a Friday statement from the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
As part of a settlement to resolve those allegations, the company will pay $450,000 in cash and benefits to more than 100 workers. The settlement comes after over a dozen former workers contacted the AG about Allcare.
Under terms of the settlement, each worker will receive $8,000 for emotional distress.
“Threatening hardworking New Yorkers with threats of deportation and retaliation is as immoral as it is illegal, and we are holding Allcare accountable for this reprehensible conduct,” Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “My office will continue to hold employers accountable for violating labor laws and promote fairness and respect for working New Yorkers regardless of immigrant status.”
According to an investigation, Allcare was allegedly in violation of the New York Labor Law, the New York Homecare Worker Wage Parity Act and the New York Earned Sick Time Act.
Additionally, the company landed in hot water for not paying caregivers working 24-hour shifts for every hour they worked, for failing to offer paid-leave policies and for using the threat of ICE authorities as a retaliation tactic against workers, the AG found.
“While we disagree with the underlying allegations of the complaint, we agreed to settle this case with the NY Attorney General to avoid long and expensive litigation,” an Allcare spokesperson told Home Health Care News in an email. “We maintain our innocence and always will. We chose to settle with the Attorney General regarding wage and hour issues, but we understand that the publicity surrounding this case has focused on the false allegations of immigration discrimination. We appreciate everyone’s effort’s to conclude this matter and are happy to be moving forward in a positive direction.”
In general, the health care sector often relies on immigrant labor — especially for the care of older adults.
More than 27% of home care workers are immigrants, according to Health Affairs.
As the U.S. population continues to age and develops more chronic conditions, the need for caregivers is likely to increase even further, especially when it comes to 24-hour care.
“[There is a growing] need for 24-hour care,” Dr. Leah Zallman, an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and director of research for the Institute for Community Health at the Cambridge Health Alliance, previously told HHCN. “We know that immigrants disproportionately take on the shifts that U.S. born citizens typically don’t want. Night shifts and weekend shifts are ones that go unfilled without people who are willing to step in and do that.”
Spearheaded by the Trump administration, the past few years have seen multiple efforts to push forward legislation that would curtail and restrict immigration, leaving already vulnerable undocumented immigrant workers even more exposed.
In fact, 6.5 million undocumented workers experience wage theft annually, according to the New York AG.
Making sure immigrant workers view home health and home care as job opportunities is vital to the long-term health of the field, as many experts see hiring greater numbers of immigrant workers as one solution to the ongoing workforce shortage.
For example, the home health aide program housed out of Stamford, Connecticut-based Building One Community’s Center for Immigrant Opportunity is trying to solve the pain point by helping immigrant students become home care workers through specialized training.
The program places local immigrants in a six-month cohort that completes both an English language component and skills training course focused on home health care.
“[Immigrants] may take on cases that are really challenging,” Ivonne Zucco, the workforce development director at B1C, previously told HHCN. “I think that our program is bringing in a population that is willing to sacrifice and work hard so that they can move ahead.”