Right now, there are no fewer than 20 California companies with outstanding wage theft judgments against them that are illegally operating with impunity despite owing workers more than a million dollars in penalties and back wages.
According to the director of the Women's Employment Rights Clinic and an associate law professor at Golden Gate University, they get away with it because, "[t]here's no accountability. Many of the cases that are being brought by workers are challenging flat-rate pay for 24 hours of work, conditions that are akin to modern-day slavery."
It's a clear breach of the Fair Day's Pay Act, which was signed by former Gov. Jerry Brown back in 2015. The law bans companies that have unpaid judgments against them for wage theft from operating businesses in California.
Inaction from state agencies
The Community Care Licensing Division (CCLD) that issues licenses to facilities housing the disabled and elderly and which operates under the auspices of the California Department of Social Services has taken no action, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.
The state labor commission provided the CCLD with names of companies flouting the law. Yet, the companies continue to do business as usual while their employees languish without ever being paid for these wage thefts.
Where does the buck stop?
The Department of Social Services' (DSS) acting director claimed the agency's figurative hands were tied regarding license revocations for companies refusing to pay off judgments for wage theft. He claims that the DSS must be able "to show cause that there's a direct threat to the health and safety of residents" in order to shut companies down.
Online records show no indication that those in charge of issuing care facilities their licenses to do business weighed the companies' failures to pay off the workers' wage theft judgments when making these decisions.
Many in the legal field point out there is no requirement to prove that a connection exists between the wage thefts and the safety and health of the residents at the care facilities under the law. Those in charge of licensing have the right to revoke the facilities' licenses if they continue to ignore the wage theft judgments against them. That reality causes harm to both the senior citizens and the workers who care for them, which is in itself a breach of California health and safety codes.
Unpaid and disgruntled workers who are victims of wage theft and/or who are forced to work unsustainably long hours are linked to poor quality of care for the vulnerable residents. It remains the responsibility of the DSS to take the necessary actions to deny and revoke companies' licenses.
Two years ago, a company in Clovis with a care facility with unpaid wage theft judgments was ordered by the state labor commissioner to pay over $870,000 in penalties and unpaid wages to five of its caregivers.
But shortly after that, the co-owner of the company filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 7. Within months, the care home itself then filed for bankruptcy. Trustees determined that neither the personal or corporate debtors had assets sufficient to pay off the worker creditors and their debts were discharged.
Are you a California worker who was a victim of wage theft? Take action now to preserve your rights.