Commissioner Lorelei Salas (center) talks to health aides at a Paid Care Worker gathering.
Photo: Courtesy of the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
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Eleven private city-based health care agencies failed to give their staffers basic paid sick leave, a city investigation found.
The agencies agreed to pay a total of nearly $450,000 in restitution to more than 4,100 home health aides, the city’s Department of Consumer and Worker Protection said Wednesday. The agencies also were forced to pony up nearly $122,000 in civil penalties and take steps to rectify their policies.
The employers include nursing homes and home care agencies, records show.
Shortly after becoming mayor, Bill de Blasio signed the paid sick leave law over objections from business leaders who argued it would disproportionately hurt small firms.
Bill de Blasio signed the city’s paid sick leave law shortly after becoming mayor.
Photo: Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY
The law requires employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours annually in the city to give staffers at least five paid sick days a year.
News of the city’s investigation came as Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that he’d try to pass a statewide paid sick time law during the upcoming legislative session.
City investigators have “uncovered widespread violations of the law,” by booming home health care industry since 2017, the consumer protection agency said in a statement.
The health agencies were fined for issues that ranged from failing to allow staff to use paid sick leave to not posting notice of workers’ rights to blocking carryover of unused leave, records revealed.
“I think there’s a whole host of problems in the health industry in implementing paid sick time,” said Sherry Leiwant, co-founder of A Better Balance, a legal advocacy organization that advances policies to support workers.
Two cases of the latest city cases involving “wage parity concerns” were forwarded to state Attorney General Letitia James for possible criminal charges, city officials said. The cases remain open.
The 11 health agencies that settled cases with the city are: Pella Care; Elite HHC; The Royal Care; Fadmo Health and Home Care; Caring Angels dba Interim; Community Home dba Helping Hands; All American Homecare; American Business Institute; Signature Care; Metropolitan Homecare Way; and Dependable Home Care.
Another 13 cases were referred to the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Labor, and the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General for further investigation regarding possible violations of the wage parity law.
City officials did not list the names of those health care firms.
Care workers in New York are “overwhelmingly” low-income immigrant women of color, according to a city report that relies on Census data.
Rona Shapiro, executive vice president at 1199 SEIU, the union representing many health care workers, said private firms denying paid sick leave time has led workers “to organize to defend their rights through their union.”
“Home care workers dedicate themselves to ensure that seniors and people with disabilities can remain in their homes with the support they need,” Shapiro said. “Unfortunately, there are many bad-actor companies in this field who flout the law and deny workers the wages, benefits and sick time they are owed.”
The investigation comes as the health care industry is expanding. The number of “paid care” workers in the city increased by 15% over the past decade, from 176,000 to 202,000, according to the city’s “Lifting Up Paid Care Work” report issued in 2018.
“We want to make it clear to home care agencies across the city that lack of compliance with the law will not be tolerated,” said Department of Consumer and Worker Protection commissioner Lorelei Salas.
“Home care workers are vital workers who care for our loved ones, and we will continue working to ensure that this rapidly growing industry is held accountable for past violations and comes into compliance going forward.”
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