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Laguna Hills assisted-care company charged employees for lodging, made them sleep in kitchens

The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $158,854 in back wages for 13 employees of Laguna Hills assisted-living facilities who had lodging expenses deducted from their paychecks even though they were forced to sleep in kitchens and living rooms, federal officials said this week.

Cornerstone Care Inc. was found to have violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law that protects workers against unfair practices, after a yearlong investigation that concluded in November 2019.

Cornerstone operates three facilities in Laguna Hills that provide short- and long-term care, hospice care and other services. Officials with the company did not respond to requests  for comment.

In addition to charging employees for promised lodging that wasn’t provided, Cornerstone also made them pay for meals they didn’t receive, officials said.

The investigation also found that Cornerstone failed to pay workers for time spent in mandatory trainings on their days off. Additionally, the company didn’t record or pay for time that employees worked during interrupted breaks.

“These essential workers deserve to be paid all the wages they have legally earned,” Eric Murray, district director for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division in Phoenix, said in a statement. “The U.S. Department of Labor is committed to preventing employers from short-changing workers or making illegal payroll deductions, and gaining an unfair competitive advantage over those employers who play by the rules.”

Over the past five years, the Wage and Hour Division has recovered about $12.5 million in back wages for those working at California senior care facilities and hospitals.

Michael Eastwood, director of enforcement for the Wage and Hour Division’s Western Region, described the fine imposed on Cornerstone as significant. He added that while some workers fear reporting employers to the Department of Labor, businesses must be held accountable.

Employees who believe they are owed back pay can call the Wage and Hour Division’s Orange Area Office at 714-621-1650 or the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243).

Source: Orange County Register

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