LAAW Lawsuit Exposes Vulnerabilities of Resident Managers: When Asking for Wages Effectively Leads to Your Eviction

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Katherine Fiester - Staff Attorney, Wage Protection Program
(415) 593-0072
kfiester@legalaidatwork.org

San Francisco (March 21, 2018) — In San Francisco’s astronomically expensive housing market, legislators and housing activists have worked hard to prevent unjust evictions of low-income tenants. However, there is one group of people who can be left surprisingly unprotected: live-in resident managers whose bosses are also their landlords. When resident managers are fired, they can often be evicted immediately as they are left without certain housing protections that apply to normal tenants. Employers often know this, and can use the ever-impending risk of losing one’s housing to take advantage of these employees and keep them from complaining about mistreatment at work.

A lawsuit filed today in federal court by Legal Aid at Work on behalf of Janell Simpson demonstrates how these dynamics play out in the real world. It alleges that, for the majority of Ms. Simpson’s two-plus years of employment, her employer paid her no wages at all – in violation of federal and California law – despite working as many as seven days per week. Then, just about nineteen days after Ms. Simpson complained to her employer about not being paid, the Complaint alleges that her employer retaliated against her by presenting her with new employment terms that dramatically increased her rent and reduced her working hours. As a result, she ultimately lost her job and her housing simultaneously. Rubbing salt into the wound, the Complaint alleges that Ms. Simpson discovered that at least one of her male counterparts was also being paid more than she.

“After I complained about my wages, my employer told me that this is how businesses run, and I should be grateful to have this opportunity,” Ms. Simpson said. “This is not how businesses should run, and I am coming forward to make sure that others don’t have to go through this terrible experience.”

“We believe that this case highlights the greater problem that resident managers are often exploited but are too scared to come forward for fear of losing both their jobs and their housing,” says Katherine Fiester, staff attorney at Legal Aid at Work, one of the attorneys representing Simpson. “In bringing this case, we hope that Ms. Simpson’s bravery will help fight back against the illegal payment and intimidation schemes that resident managers all-too-often endure.”

The Complaint names as defendants Latitude 38 Housing Services, LLC, SF Housing Services, LLC, Yale Residences, LLC, and Antony Brettkelly, which collectively oversee hundreds of units in San Francisco that are marketed as tech, corporate, and student housing.

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About Legal Aid at Work:

Legal Aid at Work is a nonprofit legal services organization that has been assisting California’s low-income, working families for more than 100 years. Its programs conduct outreach, provide direct legal services to thousands of people each year, engage in litigation when necessary, and advocate for policies that strengthen the rights of low-income people. More information about Legal Aid at Work can be found at www.legalaidatwork.org.

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Complaint - Simpson v Latitude 38 et al