Among the complaints brought up in the recent Frontline exposé of Emeritus Senior Living, the nation’s largest operator of assisted living facilities, was that the company’s care staff was often ill-prepared to handle the needs of residents with conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and that the company had stressed labor cost-cutting in order to maximize profits. Now comes news that the company has agreed to pay out $2.2 million to settle claims it routinely underpaid workers.
A lawsuit filed by non-salaried aides and support staff at Emeritus facilities in California alleged that the company shorted their pay, violated state laws concerning mandated meal times and rest periods, denied overtime claims, and failed to properly compensate employees for days spent in training.
From ProPublica, which was responsible for the reporting on the original Frontline story:
Under the settlement, which needs to be approved next month by a state judge, Emeritus will compensate workers who were employed in its facilities in California from 2007 to 2013. The workers can range from the men and women who bathed and fed the elderly residents to those who administered their medications to those who cleaned the hallways and restrooms of the facilities.
For its part, Emeritus maintains it did nothing wrong.
“At Emeritus, we strive to be the employer of choice,” reads a statement from the company. “We are competing to hire the very best staff that we can, and we are committed to our community teams. We work to be competitive in terms of total compensation within our industry, and we conduct wage analyses in markets in an effort to stay at or in line with the competition.”
The lawsuit was initially brought by two caregivers from the same facility in California. Since the suit was granted class-action status, the payouts will go to hundreds of eligible employees and former employees at more than 50 facilities in the state.
Healthcare and elder care experts tell ProPublica that there is a direct correlation between paying caregivers properly and receiving quality care.
“I am always amazed by the commitment of direct care workers,” says J. Kevin Eckert from the Center for Aging Studies at the University of Maryland. “But many of the problems in assisted living stem from the fact these workers earn minimum wage.”
“Many direct care workers haven’t graduated high school, are often immigrants, and earn roughly $20,000 a year,” adds Eckert. “Many are single parents that have complicated lives. And they’re often leaving one job because they can earn fifty cents more somewhere else. That’s very disruptive. This is not the way to provide care in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.”
Workers Win $2 Million Settlement From Assisted Living Giant [ProPublica.org]