Attorney General James Secures $450,000 For 100 Home Health Aides Threatened With Deportation
Attorney General James Secures $450,000 For 100 Home Health Aides
Threatened With Deportation
Settlement Provides Backpay and Benefits to Over 100 Workers, and Damages to Workers Threatened with Immigration Consequences for Complaining About Unpaid Wages
The More Than 10 Workers Who Alerted the Office of the Attorney General to Company’s Unlawful Practices Will Each Receive Roughly $8,000 for Emotional Distress
NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today announced that Allcare Homecare Agency, Inc., a New York- based home health aide company, will pay $450,000 in cash and benefits to over 100 workers for cheating them out of wages, and for unlawfully threatening deportation consequences against immigrant workers when they complained about unpaid wages. The settlement stems from more than a dozen former Allcare workers who alerted the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to the company’s unlawful practices. Each of these workers will receive approximately $8,000 for emotional distress.
“Home health aides work tirelessly to care for our ailing and aging loved ones, and deserve every dollar that they earn,” said Attorney General James. “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. 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.”
An investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Allcare did not pay workers properly under the New York Labor Law, the New York Homecare Worker Wage Parity Act, and the New York Earned Sick Time Act. In particular, the investigation revealed that Allcare failed to pay aides working 24-hour shifts for every hour they worked and failed to offer legally required paid leave policies. OAG also found that Allcare retaliated against certain immigrant workers by threatening to call immigration authorities when these workers sought their unpaid wages in violation of the New York Labor Law and the New York City Human Rights Law. The case was referred to OAG by TakeRoot Justice (formerly The Community Development Project of the Urban Justice Center), and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS).
“We commend the Attorney General’s leadership to protect the rights of immigrants,” said Tito Sinha, Workers’ Rights Supervising Attorney for TakeRoot Justice. “Most importantly, we thank these workers for their courage to come forward and fight for their rights. Together, the Office of the Attorney General, the workers, and worker advocates have sent a strong message today that in New York, we will stand with immigrants and fight for social justice.”
“We appreciate the Attorney General’s taking this case and supporting home care workers to fight—without retaliation--to improve conditions of the patients and the workers,” said Sileni Martinez, a home attendant and organizer for the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS).” Especially in this political climate, we hope that the Attorney General can continue supporting workers defend their rights and improve conditions.”
“I thank the Attorney General and our whole group that is supporting us,” said Justa Barrios, a home health aide for eighteen years. “It’s a difficult job, but we do it with love and respect. The support of the Attorney General helps us workers be able to fight for our rights—our pay, better conditions. We are human beings. We have families. And we are caring for people with serious needs.”
“We thank the Attorney General and the other workers in our common battle to see that our rights be respected,” said Nohemy Arriola, a home health aide. “This support is important so that all of us workers--no matter what type of work we do, what age, race, country of origin, immigration status--can fight for our rights. We should have equal rights to improve our working conditions.”
In addition to the monetary compensation, Allcare agreed to work with OAG to develop policies that fully comply with the law, particularly in light of the recent New York Court of Appeals decision in Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc. regarding proper compensation for workers who perform 24-hour shifts.
Allcare’s home health aides are among the many who spend tireless hours caring for New York’s aging and disabled population. Across the State, approximately 200,000 aides provide home health care services each day. Over 60 percent of home health aides in New York State are immigrants, and over 90 percent are women. Despite the vital importance of their work, home health aides rarely earn above minimum wage, and approximately 18 percent of aides statewide live below the poverty line.
Immigrant workers are uniquely vulnerable to wage theft and retaliation. Every year, 6.5 million undocumented workers experience wage theft, while 85 percent of immigrant workers report suffering overtime violations. Yet, as the federal government’s anti-immigration rhetoric intensifies, employers deter these workers from recovering unpaid wages by threatening workers with deportation consequences. In New York, the Department of Labor has imposed at least $250,000 in fines on employers over the last three years for making immigration-related threats. In July 2019, after numerous credible reports of employers threatening immigrant workers with potential deportation for standing up for themselves, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill submitted by OAG creating penalties for employers who retaliate against employees by threatening them with contacting immigration authorities.
The Attorney General’s investigation of Allcare was led by Civil Enforcement Section Chief Ming-Qi Chu and Assistant Attorney General Michael Cowles of the Labor Bureau, and supervised by Acting Bureau Chief Julie Ulmet, with the assistance of Director of Research & Analytics, Jonathan Werberg, and Deputy Director, Megan Thorsfeldt, and of Investigator Lina Burgos and Legal Assistant, Yadira Filpo. The Labor Bureau is a unit of the Social Justice Division, which is overseen by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux.