Wage theft is an exceedingly common problem facing workers in the caregiving industry. Wage theft occurs when an employer fails or refuses to pay a worker the wages that they are legally entitled to, including both minimum wages and overtime wages. Unfortunately, many caregivers are vulnerable to exploitation, and often become victims of wage theft, because they are not aware of their legal rights to fair and just compensation. 

Here are the facts: If you are a caregiver providing care and assistance to an individual inside a private home, certain laws exist to protect you from wage theft. In 2014 the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (“DWBR”) became law in California. Now under the DWBR, in-home caregivers must be paid overtime compensation for all hours they work in excess of 9 in a workday or 45 in a workweek. 

The minimum wage in California is currently $11.00 an hour ($12.00 for employers with more than 25 employees). This means that most 24-hour caregivers working in California must receive a minimum of $346.50 per day in compensation to comply with the DWBR.  The minimum wage for caregivers in Los Angeles is currently $378 per day.  A 24-hour caregiver who is earning less than the required minimum wage is likely to have a very valuable claim for wage theft. In fact, claims by long-term employees can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the circumstances of each case. 

Caregivers, who are victims of wage theft, may recover their unpaid wages going back 4 years from the date of filing a claim. For example, if you file your claim on January 15, 2019, you can recover unpaid overtime wages going back to January 15, 2015.  Moreover, caregivers may assert claims against their previous employers, even if they have not worked for that employer for several years.  The one exception to this is when the care recipient has already passed away. In that instance, caregivers must file a claim against the care recipient’s estate within 1 year of their passing, or sooner if an estate has been opened and letters have been issued.

Another pervasive form of wage theft that occurs in the caregiving industry, is when employers refuse to pay a live-in caregiver for sleep-time hours. When a caregiver is required to sleep in the home of a client, it is usually because the client needs assistance at night, or just wants the comfort of having someone around in case of emergency. Under California law, an in-home caregiver is likely entitled to receive compensation for all time that he or she is required to remain at the residence of the care recipient, including time spent sleeping or other idle time. If you are not being paid for sleep time, and are required to be on the premises, ready, willing and able to provide 24-hour care to your client, you likely have a valuable case. 

In our experience, some caregivers are hesitant to proceed with claims for wage theft against their current or former employers because they are concerned about their immigration status or agreed to work for a day rate below the minimum wage. In California, undocumented workers are entitled to overtime compensation and have equal access to justice through the legal system.  Also, even if a caregiver agreed to work for a day rate below the minimum wage, the law does not permit the parties to agree to compensation below the minimum wage rate.  

Some caregivers fear the legal process and feel obligated to their patients or agreed to work as an independent contractor.  All of these concerns can be overcome, and each are addressed in our article, Top 7 Concerns Caregivers Have in Asserting an Unpaid Overtime Claim, available on our website at www.cr.legal/top .  

If you are a caregiver working 24-hour shifts, and are not paid overtime or sleep time, we want to talk with you about your legal rights.  We provide free, compassionate and confidential consultations.  Please contact us for at (818) 807-4168.  

This article is an attorney advertisement written by Daniel Chaleff, employment law attorney at Chaleff Rehwald in Woodland Hills. Our examples are of a general nature and are not a guarantee regarding the outcome of your individual matter. 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.