DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas Puts Home Care Industry On Alert

Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced that its Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS) has launched investigations into nearly 40 home healthcare agencies  from Harlem to Hollis that represent upwards of 33,000 workers.

General compliance issues with this industry have been reflected in OLPS’ experience enforcing the NYC Paid Sick Leave Law. Home care aides as a group have filed the third highest number of paid sick leave complaints. OLPS has handled 94 home healthcare agency cases leading to nearly $200,000 in fines and more than $475,000 in restitution (about 12 percent of total restitution recovered) on behalf of 6,183 workers, or more than one third of all workers on behalf of whom OLPS has recovered restitution under the law in two-plus years of enforcement.

Recent New York State Department of Health data estimates that the number of home care aides working in New York City is about 203,100, making them one of the largest private sector workforces in the city. Approximately 700 licensed Home Care Service Agencies operate nearly 850 locations in the city and dispatch this workforce mostly to private homes. Wage and hour and other labor and employment law violations among this workforce are reportedly rampant, despite recent reforms meant to raise standards like the State’s “wage parity” law and extension of federal wage and hour rights to the workforce.

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DCA’s OLPS has been shifting its enforcement resources to focus on industries that tend to have higher rates of labor and employment law violations. The Office today sent 39 notices of investigation and requests for documents to home health agencies around the city. The agencies include a broad cross-section of agencies across the five boroughs, which collectively employ approximately 33,000 workers. The investigation will provide a comprehensive look at existing practices around compliance with paid sick leave, and ensure both that employers are clear about their labor and employment law obligations, and that workers know and can use their rights.

“We want to make it clear to this industry, which has had so much trouble complying with the law in the past that New York City is paying close attention to its treatment of its workers, who are the underpinnings of the city’s economy.” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “As a recent report by the Caring Majority showed us, middle class families rely heavily on paid care workers in order to simply be able to go to work every day (families work to pay for care, and pay for care in order to work). As our society ages and more working adults have parents in need of full time care, home care aides are a population for whom labor standards must come to reflect their critical role in our society. We hope that our proactive investigation of this industry will help contribute to that shift.”

“Home health aides are among our most vital, but also, most vulnerable employees,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “Since passage of NYC’s landmark Paid Sick Leave Law, DCA has been at the forefront of protecting workers’ rights and holding employers accountable. I commend this action to prevent exploitation and send a message to the healthcare industry that its workers are entitled to their sick days.”

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“I was proud to sponsor New York City’s first Paid Sick Leave Law, but good laws are only the first step—they need robust outreach and enforcement behind them,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “I commend DCA for its efforts to ensure every New York City worker’s right to paid sick days is respected and protected.”

“Home health aides are responsible for looking after those who have built our communities so that they are able to live the quality of life they deserve. That is why it is critical we ensure these workers are able to do their jobs to the best of their abilities and are not taken advantage of,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Civil Service and Labor Committee. ‘I am pleased to see DCA is taking this proactive approach to enforcing our Paid Sick Leave Law upholding these workers’ rights. I look forward to working with Commissioner Salas to ensure this industry and others are held to the highest standards that our City has set forth for taking care of working families.”

“After working to pass legislation to expand paid sick leave to cover more workers, I am glad that the City is focusing its efforts on enforcement to ensure the success of this law,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Chair of the Committee on Aging. “Home health aides play a fundamental role in building an age-friendly city where elderly New Yorkers can age graciously in the communities they have built. I thank Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Salas for fighting to protect the rights of the everyday heroes who work tirelessly to give quality care to our aging New Yorkers.”

“Home health aides are vital and valuable workers as they care for our quickly increasing aging population. But if these workers are being denied opportunities to also take care of themselves, then we must work to ensure their rights and protections so they are also able to stay home sick with pay,” said Council Member Brad Lander, the Council’s Deputy Leader of Policy. “I commend DCA Commissioner Salas, Deputy Commissioner Vladeck and the New York Caring Majority for helping to ensure these 33,000 critical workers are afforded their rights under the law, especially as this industry rapidly grows.”

In the three years since the Paid Sick Leave Law went into effect, the Agency has closed more than 1,000 cases, securing restitution for close to 17,500 employees. Many of these New Yorkers work for low wages as security guards, home care aides, restaurant workers, and retail workers, and many are immigrants, people of color, or women. OLPS’ Paid Care Division is dedicated to defending the rights of paid care workers, improving the quality of paid care jobs, and strengthening the paid care system.

Under the NYC Paid Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees who are hired to work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid sick leave. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid sick leave. Accrual begins on employee’s first day of employment and employees can begin using accrued leave 120 days after. On the first day of employment, employers must provide the Notice of Employee Rights in English and, if available on the DCA website, their primary language. Domestic workers who have worked for their employer for more than one year must be provided two days of paid sick leave, which is in addition to the three days of paid rest under the New York State Labor Law.

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Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/PaidSickLeave or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information, the required Notice of Employee Rights, one-page overviews for employers and employees, FAQs, DCA’s paid sick leave training presentation, and the complaint form. DCA also developed tools to help employers keep track of employees’ hours worked and sick leave used as well as model forms for verification of authorized sick time used, intention to use sick time and request to make up missed work as an alternative to using sick time.

Through DCA, the de Blasio Administration continues to lead the nation on advocacy around the importance of municipal workplace rights and protections. DCA’s OLPS enforces, implements, and works on the development of a new generation of minimum labor standards for a stronger city. It focuses on ensuring all workers can realize these rights, regardless of immigration status. OLPS is implementing and/or enforcing a number of municipal workplace laws, including the Paid Sick Leave Law, the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, Commuter Benefits Law, the City Living and Prevailing Wage Laws, the Grocery Workers Retention Act and the new Paid Care Division, and will soon expand its reach to include the Mayor’s signature Fair Workweek initiative to address scheduling practices in the fast food and retail industries, when those laws take effect in November.

The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCA licenses more than 81,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCA protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCA empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCA also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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