Caregivers for the elderly are regularly asked to provide overnight care to their clients when working 24-hour shifts.  Often, caregivers supervise, monitor and provide assistance during the night. Overnight care is necessary for many patients who have trouble walking or going to the bathroom on their own. Patients with dementia often wake up confused or disoriented, requiring assistance and comfort during the night.

Many employers think that since a caregiver is allowed to sleep, and provided a place to stay, they do not have to pay for the overnight supervision and coverage caregivers provide. These employers may believe that “work” means that the caregiver is actively carrying out assigned duties and, since they are sleeping or resting, they are not working.

The idea that caregivers who work in private residences do not have to be paid for time spent sleeping is contrary to California law.  In-home caregivers must be paid for all hours they are required to remain on the premises, under the control of their employer, even if they are sleeping, inactive, watching television or surfing the net. That means if you are not allowed to leave at night, you must be paid for all overnight hours.

The reason that compensation is required is that caregivers who are required to stay overnight are usually doing so for the benefit of their patient, who needs care and supervision 24-hours a day. Without overnight care, patients would likely need to be placed in a group home. In other cases, the label of “sleep-time” is inaccurate, because patients get up so often the caregiver must wake up several times each night and does not really get consistent sleep.

Many employers require the presence of the caregivers at night, but when caught not paying overnight wages, argue the caregivers stayed at the home for their own benefit, not the client’s benefit. To lessen liability, employers typically claim the caregivers did not have a place to live, did not want to drive home or simply enjoyed staying at the residence.

Further still, some employers create false time records showing only 8 or 16 hours of work to make it appear the caregiver is allowed to leave or not working at night. Some employers make explicit or implicit threats to fire employees if they do not sign false documents, leaving the caregivers with few options. The best way to keep your employer honest is document your time worked.

Many employers communicate by email or text message, and the instructions employers give may contradict the false time records they created. If you have emails or text messages from your employer, you should always save them. Save every communication, no matter how trivial it may seem, because it may end up being the most valuable piece of evidence in your case.

Caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly may also be entitled to compensation for sleep time when required to work at night or supervise patients while they sleep. There are limited circumstances where facilities are legally permitted to deduct sleep time. In reality, many facilities do not meet the requirements to deduct sleep time from hours worked and owe the caregivers compensation for hours worked providing overnight coverage.

If you are not paid sleep time and are required to remain on the premises overnight, you may have a valuable claim. The lawyers at Chaleff Rehwald have litigated the issue of sleep time for in-home and facility caregivers many times. We know the law, and have detailed and specific strategies for sleep-time wage theft cases. Often, we are able to resolve claims without going to court. Our attorneys want to hear from you to learn more about your potential claims. Call us now for a free consultation. (818) 807-4168

This article is an attorney advertisement written by Daniel Chaleff, 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.