A group of New York City home health aides is suing the New York Department of Labor (“DOL”) in an attempt to force the agency to resume an investigation of their allegations that they were not fully compensated for their time during 24-hour shifts. The State was already investigating wage theft claims made by approximately 120 home health aides last year when the workers received a decision in their favor in a separate arbitration between the workers’ unions, 1199 SEIU and others, and dozens of private home care agencies. The arbitrator determined that some errors in compensation practices were made by the home care agencies in the case and determined the employers participating in the arbitration must pay $30 million into a “special wage fund” covering unionized home health aides employed by 42 different agencies, including some of the workers whose claims were also under review by the DOL.
Earlier this year, in May, the DOL sent out notices to the aides who had complained to the DOL, notifying them that it would cease investigating their claims of wage theft, in view of the aides having received restitution for those same claims through the arbitration, or other channels. The letters from the DOL stated, “We decline to investigate the allegations presented any further,” and “We understand other means are available for a resolution of your claim. Our decision is not a determination as to the validity of your claim.”
However, some of the aides are objecting to the settlement now, and the DOL’s own abandonment of their investigation, claiming that the arbitration “award amounted to pennies on the dollar per worker.” According to an article in THE CITY , “Aides had hoped that the state Department of Labor would continue its own investigation of the same claims for which they have been paid through the arbitral proceeding, which began in 2019.”
The aides, represented by two nonprofit organizations, have commenced a lawsuit in New York State Supreme Court, largely around philosophical grounds, claiming that the Department of Labor had no right to cease its investigation into their wage theft claim. Forework will monitor the lawsuit closely and advise clients in the home care industry of any required modifications in their practices and policies.