I found a recent story from California very troubling. The nation’s largest assisted living company agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle claims for underpayment and mistreatment of the workers who take care of the elderly. Lack of proper overtime pay, lack of mandatory meal and rest periods, and improper payment of mandatory training are examples of the mistreatment.
The victims were the least-paid workers who did the hardest physical labor, according to the story. These people who bathed, fed, and provided the most hands-on care for our frail, elderly loved ones were denied wages and overtime pay for 7 years, according to the terms of the settlement.
Care for the old, frail and disabled is big business. Nearly 750,000 people are receiving assisted living care, according to the ProPublica article. And the industry is just going to expand, as folks are sicker but have higher expectations for care, while also living longer, according to this article from NPR.
Fair treatment of our elders’ caregivers is essential. The wages are low, as most difficult jobs often are. Violating employment rules and statutes for businesses to save money and make larger profits seems particularly offensive for these workers. And they are not often protected from or informed of the hazards of their jobs, many of which can have serious consequences for workers’ health and well being, according to these blog posts from respected colleague Jon Gelman, an attorney in New Jersey: Protecting Healthcare Workers is a Goal of NIOSH and NIOSH Acts To Prevent Lifting Injuries For Home Healthcare Workers.
Congratulations to the workers and their representative who stood up to this very large employer that has around 500 facilities in the United States. It takes courage and tenacity to fight battles like this.
All of us who care about workers need to be aware that these are battle worth fighting. And that these battles can be won.