Caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities provide an important service to elderly and disabled individuals, as well as their families. Caregivers often work up to 24 hours a day to meet the residents’ needs.  However, many caregivers working in facilities are grossly underpaid.

California law protects caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities from wage theft. All facility caregivers are entitled to receive at least minimum wage for every hour worked.  The current minimum wage in California is $10 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less, and $10.50 for employers of 26 or more employees.

Additionally, with some exceptions, caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities must also receive overtime compensation for all hours worked in excess of eight per day or 40 per week, and double time compensation for all hours worked in excess of 12 per day.

Facility caregivers, working 24-hour shifts must be paid a minimum of $380 a day to comply with California’s minimum wage laws.  That includes eight hours of pay at the minimum wage of $10/hour ($80), four hours at the overtime rate of $15/hour ($60) and 12 hours paid at the double time rate of $20/hour ($240).

Instead of paying overtime and double time, many Residential Care Facility employers pay caregivers a salary, regardless of the actual number of hours worked. Paying an employee a salary does not automatically exempt that employee from minimum wage or overtime.  Many times, the salary paid is far less than the legally required minimum wage. More importantly, paying a non-exempt employee a salary only compensates that employee for non-overtime hours. So, if a non-exempt Facility caregiver who works more than eight hours a day or 40 hours a week receives a salary, that caregiver has not been paid anything for hours worked in excess of eight in a day or 40 in a week.

Some Residential Care Facility owners also deduct sleep time from caregivers’ hours worked.  However, in many cases, if a caregiver is required to sleep on the facility premises and assist residents during the night-time, the facility owner must pay the caregiver for sleep time.

Another mistake that many Residential Facility owners often make is classifying facility caregivers as independent contractors instead of employees. It is nearly impossible for Residential Care Facility employers to establish that facility caregivers are legitimate independent contractors under California law.  California law presumes that one who performs services for another is an employee. Further, Facility employers are required by law to heavily control the hours, working conditions, manner and means of a facility caregiver’s work.  The high level of control required indicates an employer/employee relationship.

Further, caregivers working in facilities are entitled to employment law protection regardless of their immigration status.  California Labor Code § 1171.5 prohibits employers from using a worker’s immigration status as a defense to claims for unpaid wages: “All protections, rights, and remedies available under state law, except any reinstatement remedy prohibited by federal law, are available to all individuals regardless of immigration status who have applied for employment, or who are or who have been employed, in this state.” Labor Code § 1171.5(a).  All employees in California are entitled to protection from wage theft, regardless of their immigration status.

Caregivers work hard to care for our loved ones and, like all employees in California, must be paid in accordance with California law.  Caregivers working in licensed Residential Care Facilities who believe they have been underpaid should consult with a knowledgeable employment law attorney with experience handing wage and hour matters to ensure that they are properly compensated for their work.

This article is an attorney advertisement written by Lauren J. Peterson, employment law attorney at Chaleff Rehwald in Woodland Hills. The law firm focuses on caregiver rights.  Please call us at (818) 807-4168 for a free and confidential consultation.  Or visit us at www.cr.legal to learn more about caregiver overtime law.  We offer a 24-hour chat line on our website.