When most people think of caregivers, they imagine employees who dedicate their time to helping others. But when most employers think of caregivers, they see dollar signs.
It's a significant problem in California where many caregivers are overworked and underpaid. According to Public Radio International, at least 20 companies conducted illegal behavior by committing wage theft -- a practice where employers withhold or underpay staff.
While former Gov. Jerry Brown tried to reduce wage theft through the Fair Day's Pay Act, caregivers across the state still suffer from unpaid wages and draining work schedules. It leads employees to seek other jobs to supplement their income, or to file for bankruptcy to cover necessary living costs.
But what can caregivers do to stop wage theft?
While the problem is still rampant across California, caregivers do have options in terms of action against their employers. First, you have to determine if you have a case. In California, violations employers commit include:
- Failing to pay minimum wage
- Failing to not pay for all the time worked
- Not paying for overtime
- Not providing breaks for meals
- Not providing a completely "off-duty" rest break
- Not paying for time spent in training or staff meetings
- Not paying for work expenses such as phones or milage
If you are a caregiver who experiences one or more of these violations, you have the right to consider an individual or class-action lawsuit. Depending on your circumstances, you need to decide if pursuing a lawsuit on your own or with other caregivers is the right decision.
If you aren't sure if you should pursue a lawsuit, consult with an employment law attorney. This will help you gain more insight into your specific situation and if you are eligible for financial compensation due to wage theft.
Whatever you decide, make sure to gather evidence and act on your instincts. No one should be cheated out of their rightful pay, especially when their work is dedicated to taking care of others.