America’s growing need for elder care has fueled a booming market for independent care homes. These homes serve as cheaper alternatives to more costly nursing homes, but they often come with a rotten secret. Many pay and treat their workers badly, even while the owners get rich and drive fancy cars.

PRI recently reported on these care homes and their workers, shedding light on a culture full of labor violations. Workers suffered long work hours, criminally low pay and physical abuse. Some were kicked, sexually abused or had miscarriages because their employers didn’t let them take time off. But many of these workers were immigrants, so they often felt they had no other choice.

Know your rights

Sadly, California played a big part in the report. The state leads the nation in care homes. It boasts more than 7,300 licensed residential care facilities, and it was responsible for approximately 35% of all the cases where courts found care-home owners guilty of wage and hour violations. This shows the need for all Californians to understand their rights, including:

  • Minimum wage of $11.00/hour, which may be higher for some companies or cities
  • Overtime pay for all hours above your job’s threshold, which is usually 40 hours per week
  • Meal breaks and paid rest breaks, with limited exceptions
  • A workplace free from hazards and harassment
  • Workers’ compensation for job-related injuries and illnesses
  • Protection from retaliation after you file with an official agency

These rights apply to all California workers, whether they’re U.S. citizens or undocumented immigrants. The California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement does not question immigration status while looking to see if workers have had their rights violated.

Find an ally

In its report, PRI often talked about how weak and trapped the care home workers felt. Many felt as though they had no power to fight back against the employers who abused them. But you do have power. If your employer breaks the law, an experienced labor attorney can help you stand up for your rights and claim the money your employer owes you.