Home health care workers are often shorted on their wages and harassed by their agencies, according to an investigation by the New York City Department of Consumers Affairs (DCA).
Officials described workers who have not been paid for working 24-hour shifts, been retaliated against for taking sick leave, and were not informed about their right to benefits and wages.
“You have a right to fair pay and safe working condition, and the City of New York is going to make sure that those rights are protected,” Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen said in regards to home health care workers. “This is what it means to have your back.”
During the roughly year-long investigation, the department said it interviewed hundreds of workers, many of whom are women and immigrants. 21 cases ended in settlements involving restitution and fines. More than a dozen cases are still being investigated by the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings or the New York State Attorney General’s Office.
For workers, the intensive labor that comes with being a home health aide deserves adequate compensation and benefits. Carol Khaldoun said she has been working for BeSure Home Health Services Agency, Inc. for two years.
“We have no time and a half, no pension, no sick days. And we deserve that,” said Khaldoun. “We work hard.”
According to the DCA, the total value of home health care employees' pay "must be at least $16.09 per hour for agencies with 10 or fewer employees and $17.09 per hour for agencies with 11 or more employees." They are entitled to overtime pay if they exceed 40 hours a week. Overnight shifts are common in the industry, yet the investigation found many workers were underpaid for sleepless nights.
Home health aides at BeSure voted to join the 1199SEIU union in April. A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to a request for comment.
The implications of the city’s investigation will likely be unfolding for months. DCA has referred 13 agencies to various state offices to further investigate potential non-compliance with the New York State Wage Parity Law. If the state moves forward with those investigations, it is possible some agencies could lose their operating license.
A member of the New York State Attorney General’s Office would not comment on the specifics of its continuing investigations, but did say they cover the spectrum of sick leave, wage and hour, and wage parity complaints.
The city estimates that more than 200,000 people work in the paid care industry across the five boroughs and that, by 2040, there will be 1.4 million seniors in NYC, 70 percent of whom will need long-term care.
For more, listen to Mara Silver's report for WNYC: