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4 Inland Empire assisted living caregivers to receive $270K in back wages from feds

Four Philippine nationals who often worked 16 hours a day, seven days a week at assisted living facilities in Ontario, Upland and Riverside will divide nearly $270,000 in retroactive overtime pay and damages following a nine-month federal investigation.

The probe revealed LMB Care Home LLC paid the live-in caregivers straight-time rates for hours over 40 in a workweek, in violation of federal law, and failed to properly maintain time card records.

“We are just trying to ensure all employees that it’s their right regardless of their (residency) status in the United States to get paid the minimum wage and overtime,” Skarleth  Kozlo, assistant director for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in West Covina, said Friday. “Lack of knowledge by an employer does not excuse not paying employees properly.”

Officials with LMB did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The investigation, which began in March 2021 and concluded in June, involved LMB facilities at 1125 W. J St. and 1813 N. Calaveras Ave. in Ontario; 1316 N. San Antonio Ave. in Upland; and 11262 Sun Haven Way in Riverside.

Information was not released regarding whether the probe was prompted by an employee complaint or a routine Department of Labor inspection.

Wage and hour investigations typically involve interviews with employees and a review of payroll and timecard records, along with surveillance to determine when workers begin and end their shifts.

“A lot of (work) hours are often off the clock so you are not going to find them on time cards,” Kozlo said, regarding the necessity of using undercover tactics.

In addition to working long hours, the four LMB employees were required to take lunch breaks without getting paid because the company with struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kozlo.

“They (LMB ) were trying to do the best they could to stay afloat and to find workers to work in that environment,” she added. “The pandemic was rough on everyone.”

Wage and hour investigators often find that employees at small assisted care facilities like those operated by LMB don’t realize they are being exploited.

“It’s almost as if they don’t see it as wrong,” Kozlo said. “They are very caring individuals and see it as helping the community and helping folks.”

LMB officials cooperated with the investigation and agreed to return to the federal government $269,104 in back wages and damages owed to the workers.

The amount of the funds, which will be distributed within the next few months, is significant and telling given the handful of employees impacted, according to Kozlo. “That means four people were working a lot of hours,” she said, adding that the employees were surprised and pleased by their sudden windfall.

In 2021, the West Covina Wage and Hour Division office recovered $13.8 million in back wages for more than 17,000 health care industry workers nationwide. It has investigated about 20 care facilities in Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties in the past year.

Although LMB provides good accommodations, federal investigators have found shocking conditions at some facilities in the region, with live-in workers being required to sleep on sofas, floors and in garages, Kozlo said.

In 2021, the Department of Labor recovered $158,854 in back wages for 13 employees at Cornerstone Care Inc., who had lodging expenses deducted from their paychecks even though they were forced to sleep in kitchens and living rooms. Cornerstone Care operates assisted living Laguna Hills

Employees who believe they are owed back wages can contact the Wage and Hour Division office in West Covina confidentially by calling 866-487-9243.

Source: Orange County Register

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