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Home Attendants Demand Pay for All the Hours They Work

Home attendants say they are penalized if they refuse to work 24-hour shifts. (Leif Skoogfors/Wikimedia Commons)
Home attendants say they are penalized if they refuse to work 24-hour shifts. (Leif Skoogfors/Wikimedia Commons)
September 9, 2016

NEW YORK – Home attendants who work 24-hour shifts caring for elderly New Yorkers say they deserve to be paid for all the hours they're on the job, and some are filing a lawsuit about it. Some of the workers at the First Chinese Presbyterian Community Affairs Home Attendant Corporation have put in 20 years, working 24-hour shifts, sometimes seven days a week, but they only are paid for about half of those hours.

According to Mika Nagasaki, an organizer for the "Ain't I A Woman campaign, Medicaid has approved these patients to receive 24-hour care.

"They have Alzheimer's or dementia, or they have incontinence," she explained. "So, it's very physical labor, it's a lot of lifting, it's a lot of watching, it's a lot of emotional work, and it's constant."

The workers, who say they are penalized if they refuse to work 24-hour shifts, have filed a lawsuit against the company, seeking pay for all the hours they are on duty.

Nagasaki said those who refuse 24-hour shifts may be told there is no other work, or are assigned to the most challenging cases, or aren't given enough hours to earn the money they need to live. So, they want to be able to work rotating shifts.

"If one worker comes in for the daytime 12-hour shift, they want to switch off with somebody else for the nighttime shift and get paid for every single hour," she explained. "That's what the workers really want."

The workers, who are paid $10-11 an hour, also say they haven't had a raise in eight years.

And their situation is not unique. Nagasaki said working conditions are the same at many home-attendant agencies.

"We've seen droves of workers coming in from different agencies all over the city and also in upstate New York," she added. "So, we believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg."

The lawsuit was filed in New York State Supreme Court on behalf of three individual plaintiffs by the Urban Justice Center and the law firm Virginia and Ambinder LLP, which are seeking class-action status in the suit.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY