CA facilities slapped with $3 million in labor violations fines, workers slept on sofa in garage

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Four assisted living facilities in the San Francisco Bay area are facing a total of $3 million in fines for how they allegedly treated and paid workers, California authorities announced Thursday.

The sleeping area for workers at Common Destiny Care Homes in Fremont was a garage with a sofa bed, according to the state's labor commissioner and the Department of Industrial Relations. Workers checked in the night prior to a shift and were sometimes required to do unpaid work during designated sleeping hours, the authorities allege. They also contend that staff members were sometimes made to work up to 17 hours a day without receiving minimum wage or overtime pay. Common Destiny has been fined more than $358,700.

Common Destiny owner Marvin Tom acknowledges that workers were being paid less than minimum wage, but says they understood the wage structure and found it acceptable. Some had been working with Common Destiny for years, he told McKnight's. The company plans to pay the fine and raise its wages to become compliant.

With regard to the sleeping arrangements, Tom said that a sleeping area had been set up for worker convenience. They could choose to sleep in the garage to avoid having to take buses, which sometimes were not conveniently scheduled in early morning hours, he said. Sometimes workers staying in the garage would help a resident to the bathroom during the night, he said.

“The minimum wage, we don't contest that,” Tom said. “Some of the other issues are that we didn't have accurate timekeeping to satisfy the [authorities].”

Common Destiny is a small operation with a maximum of six residents. It currently is serving four. Tom believes that some of the rules his operation “got dinged for” are hurting small operators, and he said he endorses efforts of groups such as 6Beds.org, which are lobbying legislators to relax regulations for organizations like Common Destiny.

Other wage and overtime violations are alleged to have occurred at Abraham Rest Home Inc. in Walnut Creek, Sanchez-Abraham Corporation in Concord and Floran White Dove Care in Brentwood, according to officials. In total, those facilities have been fined about $1.8 million for wages/premiums underpaid, along with additional fines that include civil penalties. Owners of Abraham Rest Homes Inc., Sanchez-Abraham Corporation and Florian White Dove Care were arrested in September in connection with the alleged labor practices, according to local reports.

None of the three facilities have responded to phone calls from McKnight's.

“For caregivers, this is a matter of concern not only for the health of the workers but for their ability to provide proper care to those who depend on them,” stated Labor Commissioner Julie A. Su. “Workers' well-being is closely tied to the well-being of those they serve.”