The Contra Costa District Attorney’s office, and DA Mark Peterson, has recently decided to accuse 2 different care homes for seniors in the district with theft of wages. Owners of both the Abraham Rest Home Inc., Sanchez Abraham Corp. (which run 8 different facilities of this type) and the Florin White Dove Care Homes (which operates 6 facilities). Those who stand accused of wage theft are her daughter and two sons (name withheld in order to protect the privacy of the accused), they claim that they have done no wrong and are waiting for validation from the DA.
Protections against wage theft in California have been in existence since 2011, when Assembly Bill 469 (the “Wage Theft Protection Act”). However, the term ‘theft’ is often considered a misnomer. ‘Wage theft’ refers, not to actual theft of wages by employers from employees, but to circumstances under which an employer has failed to comply with certain complicated legal requirements when it comes to how employees are compensated. In other words, it’s a euphemism used when an employer hasn’t managed to properly navigate the morass of detailed requirements of such things as employee breaks for rest and meals, overtime, minimum wage payments, proper calculation of pay rates, not knowing who to call an independent contractor, and other various laws pertaining to wages and employee treatment.
Still, as of April 30th, the California Labor Commissioner criminalized ‘wage theft’ and it may be that prosecutors are now going a bit overboard with convictions pursuant to this still new development. Owners of the Abraham Rest Home were hit with 8 felony counts of wage theft and 2 misdemeanor counts. It is said that they did not pay overtime properly, nor minimum wage. Yet, it’s becoming more and more difficult for employees to determine exactly what they should be doing in order to keep within the limits of the law. Within just this last year alone, 10 new wage and hour laws were put into use. Among these were a minimum wage increase, CA Labor Code 1182.12; a change in domestic employees access to overtime CA Labor Code 1450; and a provision that those people who work in the heat never be asked to work during what is known as a ‘cooldown’ period CA Labor Code 226.7.