148 caregivers, mostly Filipino immigrants, recover $5.5 million in stolen wages
LOS ANGELES—In what has been described as the largest wage theft case involving a residential care facility in California, 148 caregivers – mostly Filipino immigrants – recovered $5.5 million in stolen wages.
The caregivers won the case they filed against their former employer, Adat Shalom Board and Care for the Elderly in the San Fernando Valley, the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC) announced in a press conference at their headquarters in Los Angeles on Friday.
After meeting with the workers, PWC organizers discovered that Adat Shalom managers and owners were suspected of committing wage theft. They referred the case to the California Labor Commissioner’s Office.
The state agency found that workers at six Adat Shalom locations in Southern California worked 24-hour shifts, six days per week for as little as $2.40 per hour with no overtime pay.
Workers were required to continuously care for residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and those who are bedridden and in wheelchairs.
‘It’s about justice’
Sinagtala Limbo, one of the Filipino immigrants who worked at Adat Shalom, said she was happy that they are getting back the wages stolen from them, but “in this whole process, my biggest highlight is not really the money.”
It was about justice, she said.
“I know many of my co-workers were initially very scared, but we worked together to find the courage to speak out about these injustices,” Limbo said.
The Labor Commissioner first cited Adat Shalom Board and Care in 2017, finding that the company subjected their employees to “oppressive working conditions.”
In 2019, the State of California brought a lawsuit against Angelica and Alexander Reingold, the owners of Adat Shalom, for alleged fraudulent transfer of assets.
In the complaint, lawyers for the Labor Commissioner’s Office alleged that the Reingolds transferred five properties, valued at $4.8 million, out of the reach of creditors.
The transferred properties included one of the facilities where the workers had their wages stolen.
Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of PWC, described the settlement as an “historic and impactful victory upholding the law in an industry that is plagued by wage theft.”
Versoza said it was made possible by “strong partnerships” between the workers, PWC, the Labor Commissioner’s Office and the lawyers at Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
Versoza and the lawyers described the settlement as the largest wage theft case involving a residential care facility in California.
“This collection of $5.5 million is a signal to all employers that the game has fundamentally changed,” she said. “Enforcement of labor laws is real in the industry and if you don’t comply, there are very real consequences.”
Yvonne Medrano with Bet Tzedek Legal Services said they hope their victory “sends a message, loud and clear, to residential care home employers.”
‘Pay your workers’
“Pay your workers. If you don’t, we will go after you and we will fight vigorously to make sure that workers get money back in their pockets,” she said.
Bet Tzedek Legal Services represented workers during the Labor Commissioner’s Office citation appeal case.
The lawyers said Adat Shalom Board and Care has a history of health and safety violations. They also revealed that the facility has been rebranded and is now named “Land of Peace,” with the administrators under Adat Shalom as the official owners.
The company was also accused of attempting to bribe workers to drop the lawsuit and lie about working conditions at their facilities, the lawyers added.
Immigrant workers, including Filipinos, are disproportionately affected by wage theft as they often face language and legal barriers, according to PWC.
PWC and other community-based organizations work with the Labor Commissioner to proactively address labor violations that workers in these marginalized communities face.
Low-wage workers lose $1.4 billion a year to wage theft
A report published by the UCLA Labor Center shows low-wage workers in Los Angeles lose an estimated $1.4 billion to wage theft every year. Statewide, the loss is even more staggering.
As a result of these injustices, the workers and their families face health problems, as well as food and housing insecurity.
In Los Angeles, 80 percent of low-wage workers don’t get overtime pay and meal breaks, the report says.