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Immigrant health aide workers threatened with deportation after complaining about unpaid wages, NY attorney general says

2019-09-13

Immigrant home health aides were cheated out of wages and threatened with deportation after complaining, New York Attorney General Letitia James said Friday.

Allcare Homecare Agency will cough up $450,000 in back pay and benefits to more than 100 workers bilked out of wages as part of a settlement with the attorney general’s office.

Thirteen former Allcare workers will also each get roughly $8,000 for “emotional distress” after they were fired when the company accused them of being undocumented following an internal audit.

“It’s clear that this anti-immigrant fervor is at an all-time high across this nation,” James said at a press conference on Friday.

Home health aides at Allcare were often only paid for 13 hours when they had worked more than that during 24-hour shifts — all while taking home minimum wage and looking after disabled and elderly New Yorkers.

The company also failed to offer paid leave required under state law, according to the attorney general.

“The 24-hour workday is very difficult and very grueling. 24-hour shifts affect our health and our families,” former Allcare worker Sileni Martinez said through a Spanish translator. “We face abuse — we work four, five, six days a week for years.”

“In what other country do 24-hour shifts exist?” Martinez added. “This is an insult for all workers.”

Under the state’s so-called “13-hour rule,” home health care aides who work 24-hour shifts may be paid for just 13 of those hours if their employers also give them eight hours for sleep and three hours for meals.

But Allcare aides didn’t always the eleven hours of breaks they were entitled.

“In some cases they were not sleeping, they, in fact, were working,” James said.

Justa Barrios, another ex-Allcare worker, said shifts should be divided.

“I work 14 years, 24-hour shifts, four, five days a week, at a huge cost to my family and my health," Barrios said through a translator. “We’re human beings. We have families and we have people we care for with serious health issues.”

The 13 workers who were fired when the company determined they were undocumented complained about unpaid wages and were told that Allcare would call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, James said.

“When they uncovered that these 13 were undocumented, they were fired,” James said. “When they sought to get their unpaid wages, they were told that they would be reported to ICE.”

James later clarified that her office doesn’t know whether the 13 are actually undocumented or not.

As part of the settlement, Allcare aides on daylong shifts will get back wages for the hours they worked when they were supposed to be on sleep and meal breaks. Time sheets will be used to determine how much back pay they will get.

An Allcare manager who refused to give her name said the company denies threatening workers with deportation.

“Even though we disagree with the underlying allegations in the complaint, we feel that this was a very good result for all the parties involved and are happy,” the manager told The Daily News. “We don’t want to re-litigate the case…We’re not admitting to the allegations.”