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Home health care provider Angel Connection Nursing Services is based in Long Beach, California. They claim that Personal care services such as in-home companionship and care, respite care, and transitional care are ACNS’s areas of expertise.
However, investigators found that the associated businesses Angel Connection Nursing Care and Angel Connection Nursing Services misclassified employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, worker’s compensation insurance, and payroll taxes.
According to the state, Angel Connection Nursing Services owe close to $2 million for wage theft.
Two Long Beach home care firms have been ordered by the state Labor Commissioner’s Office to pay more than $1.8 million for violating wage theft laws impacting 66 caregivers, the bulk of whom are Filipino.
To avoid having to pay minimum wage, overtime, worker’s compensation insurance, and payroll taxes, regulators discovered that the related businesses Angel Connection Nursing Care and Angel Connection Nursing Services misclassified employees as independent contractors.
According to advocates with the Pilipino Workers Center, who along with Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Southern California helped bring the issue to the state, some caregivers who worked 24-hour shifts were paid $6.25 an hour.
The Workers Center’s executive director, Aquilina Soriano Versoza, said that the organization sought to send a strong message to the sector that pay infractions will be strictly enforced. “Workers are more empowered because they are aware of their rights.”
The owners will appeal.
According to the state, the proprietors of the two businesses are contesting the citation. An inquiry for comments was not immediately answered by the businesses. The commissioner’s office stated that it was unable to comment on active cases.
Maria, a home care worker who went by a pseudonym since she is still employed by Angel Connection, expressed her optimism that she will be able to collect the pay she is due for providing live-in care.
The 63-year-old claimed that while helping sick and elderly customers is a fulfilling job, it is also physically and mentally taxing. Cancer survivor Maria claimed that she frequently lifts clients who are bigger than her and experiences high blood pressure as a result of restless nights.
There is no such thing as a rest or food break, she claimed because even when she was eating, her client would urge her to stop and use the restroom, forcing her to stop eating and accompany her. In essence, you are available to the client around the clock.
The Picket Line Situation
More than a dozen protesters, including Maria, gathered outside a glistening Long Beach office building where the businesses had a spacious, well-lit fourth-floor location.
The group yelled, “Angel Connection, pay your workers now!” “Angels don’t steal people’s wages!”
Both the owner of Angel Connection Nursing Care and a full-time employee of Angel Connection Nursing Services, which the state claims is owned jointly by Marilyn Chu and Joseph Fortunato, are identified by the state as Annabelle Ricasata.
According to Yvonne Medrano of the Bet Tzedek legal aid group, one worker alone is owed roughly $200,000 for her services over three years since she was considered as a contractor.
“They’re not entitled to protections from discrimination,” Medrano said of contractors. They are not shielded from reprisals. Therefore, it essentially deprives them of all the safeguards for which labor activists have long campaigned.
Concern about Retaliation
According to Medrano, many additional caretakers are reluctant to come forward out of dread of reprisals. Some people are undocumented and fear that by speaking out, they may lose their right to remain in the nation. Advocates point out that anti-retaliation rules protect whistleblowers and that they can apply for protection from deportation.
This is the most recent instance of pay fraud to affects businesses that employ healthcare professionals in residential and home settings. The state ordered the owner of the Adat Shalom network of board and care homes to pay 148 former employees approximately $8.4 million in lost earnings and damages last year.
Nearly $2 million in fines levied against Angel Connection Nursing Services
The California Labor Commissioner’s Office reported that two Long Beach-based home healthcare placement companies were fined nearly $1.9 million for allegedly fraudulently misclassifying 66 home health employees as independent contractors.
Angel Connection Nursing Care and Angel Connection Nursing Services were penalized by the labor office for offenses related to wage theft, including the alleged failure to pay 22 employees overtime earnings, nine of whom the labor office claimed were also not paid the minimum wages required.
According to the state Department of Industrial Relations, investigators found that Annabelle Ricasata, the owner of Angel Connection Nursing Care, is a full-time employee of Angel Connection Nursing Services and that she misclassified the workers as independent contractors to avoid paying required wages, workers’ compensation insurance, and payroll taxes.
According to the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, the workers, the most of whom are immigrants from the Philippines, worked 24-hour shifts six days a week for as little as $6.25 an hour with no overtime.
The labor commissioner claims that one of the companies neglected to keep workers’ compensation insurance current or to give the incorrect itemized wage statements to the misclassified personnel.
Lilia Garca-Brower, the state of California’s labor commissioner, said in a statement that “when workers are misclassified as independent contractors, there is a damaging domino effect that impacts all levels of our economy.”
She said that in this instance, caregivers were often denied the minimum wage, overtime pay, and other legally mandated working conditions. “Workers frequently do not realize they are being wrongly classed and denied fundamental rights.
My office works with dependable partners who provide these cases that might not otherwise be disclosed. firms who are dishonest misclassify employees not only to avoid obligations but also to acquire an unfair competitive advantage over firms who follow the law.
The Pilipino Workers Center and Bet Tzedek Legal Services referred the Labor Commissioner’s Office to open an investigation into Angel Connection Inc., doing business as Angel Connection Nursing Services, and J Jireh Group, doing business as Angel Connection Nursing Care.
The employees of Angel Connection Nursing Care, who were mistakenly classed as independent contractors, were found to have been under the authority of Angel Connection Nursing Services concerning their pay, working hours, and working conditions, according to labor regulators.
The state claims that Ricasata, the owner of Angel Connection Nursing Care, and Merjilyn Chu and Joseph Fortunato, the proprietors of Angel Connection Nursing Services, are responsible for paying more than $1 million in back wages to employees. According to the DIR, Angel Connection Nursing Care is responsible for $330,000 for misclassifying 66 employees, $171,000 for failing to furnish itemized wage statements, and $357,046 for a Stop Order Penalty Assessment for failing to provide workers’ compensation insurance.
Get Justice Suspicious
The PWC and Bet Tzedek helped to identify workers throughout the inquiry and forwarded the case to the State Labor Commissioner’s Office.
According to Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of PWC, “the courageous caregivers who came forward in this case cast a spotlight on issues that domestic caregivers routinely face — multiple around-the-clock shifts with no breaks and no overtime pay.”