The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center (LAS-ELC), Wage Justice Center, and Workplace Justice Initiative have helped secure $270,000 in unpaid wages and interest owed to four caregivers from their former employers who owned and operated the residential senior care facility Sunset Gardens. The settlement, signed last week and totaling $325,000, was achieved in collaboration with the Filipino Community Center, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, and the City Attorney of San Francisco.
The four caregivers, Salome Luis, Nancy Zafra, Rebecca Darang, and Eleazar Cuevas, who worked under grueling conditions at Sunset Gardens for years, filed a complaint with the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement in May 2013, with the support of the Filipino Community Center. After an investigation, the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement found that the workers regularly worked 16 to 24 hours a day, between 5 and 7 days a week – all for a fixed monthly rate of as low as $1500, well below the San Francisco minimum wage.
The City Attorney, together with LAS-ELC and Wage Justice Center, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the City of San Francisco in July 2013, when it was discovered that the residential care home and the employers’ other property were for sale, which would have possibly left the caregivers without any ability to collect what they were owed. LAS-ELC, Wage Justice Center, and Workplace Justice Initiative filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the workers in September 2013 to further the caregivers’ chances of actually recovering their wages. The combined efforts paid off – the caregivers are finally being paid for the long hours they worked for years.
“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, LAS-ELC’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.”
“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.
Added Charlotte Noss, an attorney with Workplace Justice Initiative and member of the San Francisco Wage Theft Task Force, “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. ”