LONG BEACH (CNS) - Two Long Beach-based home health care placement agencies were fined nearly $1.9 million for allegedly improperly misclassifying 66 home health workers as independent contractors, the California Labor Commissioner's Office announced Wednesday.
The labor agency cited Angel Connection Nursing Care and Angel Connection Nursing Services for wage theft violations, including the alleged failure to pay 22 workers overtime wages, nine of whom the labor office said were also not paid minimum wages due.
Investigators determined 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 employees as independent contractors to avoid paying required wages, workers' compensation insurance and payroll taxes, according to the state Department of Industrial Relations.
The workers, the majority of whom are Pilipino immigrants, worked 24- hour shifts, six days per week for as little as $6.25 an hour with no overtime, according to the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California.
According to the labor commissioner, one of the businesses also failed to maintain workers' compensation insurance or provide proper itemized wage statements for the misclassified employees.
``When workers are misclassified as independent contractors, there is a damaging domino effect that impacts all levels of our economy,'' California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower said in a statement.
``In this case, caretakers were systematically denied minimum wage, overtime, and other legally required working conditions,'' she said. ``Workers are often unaware they are being misclassified and denied basic rights.
My office collaborates with trusted partners who bring these cases forward that would otherwise go unreported. Unscrupulous employers who misclassify workers do so not only to dodge obligations but also to gain an unfair business advantage over employers who comply with the law.''
According to the Labor Commissioner's Office, it opened an investigation into Angel Connection Inc. -- doing business as Angel Connection Nursing Services -- and J Jireh Group -- which uses the name Angel Connection Nursing Care -- after receiving a referral from the Pilipino Workers Center and Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
Angel Connection Nursing Services was determined to have exercised control over the wages, hours and working conditions of Angel Connection Nursing Care's employees, who were misclassified as independent contractors, labor officials said.
According to the state, Angel Connection Nursing Care owner Ricasata and Angel Connection Nursing Services owners Merjilyn Chu and Joseph Fortunato are liable for more than $1 million due to workers.
Angel Connection Nursing Care is liable for $330,000 for the misclassification of 66 workers, $171,000 for failure to provide itemized wage statements, and $357,046 for a Stop Order Penalty Assessment for failure to provide workers' compensation insurance, according to the DIR.
The PWC and and Bet Tzedek referred the case to the state Labor Commissioner's Office and assisted in identifying workers during the investigation.
``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,'' said Aquilina Soriano Versoza, executive director of PWC.