Home aid workers demand state reopen investigation into wage theft

This article was originally published in NY1. Read it here.

About 100 home aid workers gathered outside of the state Department of Labor offices in Lower Manhattan Wednesday to protest what they see as injustice, with many saying they are victims of wage theft.

Recently, the Labor Department closed a years-long investigation into wage theft of home aid workers. Organizers of the rally said hundreds of workers who filed claims with the agency received notices saying the state won’t investigate and weren’t told why.

“We already filed a claim with the Department of Labor in 2019 and now the Department of Labor sent a letter saying they’re declining to investigate our case,” said Laiyee Chan, a home care worker who spoke to NY1 through an interpreter. “The Department of Labor cannot just do this on their own will. The corruption.”

Chan, who said she works for the nonprofit Chinese-American Planning Council as a home care worker, is among those who said they are only paid for 13 hours of work while they are on duty for 24-hour shifts. They want 24-hour shifts eliminated.

“Twenty-four hours is too much,” said retired home care worker Selena Olmo. “At nighttime, the home health aids have to get up with the patients and take care of them. They don’t get paid their worth.”

Organizers and workers also want the City Council to pass legislation to do away with 24-hour work shifts.

Many of the workers at Wednesday’s demonstration said with extra hours worked, they aren’t even making minimum wage.

“For decades, these women have suffered under this industry and today Department of Labor is trying to take away justice, take away justice from these women,” said Manhattan City Councilmember Christopher Marte.

The rally comes after the Legal Aid Society also filed a lawsuit demanding the Labor Department reopen its investigation into potential wage theft of home care workers.

“It’s not about finding another job. It’s about us working 24 hours and suffering from it and we are demanding back pay of our blood and sweat,” Chan said through her interpreter.

NY1 reached out to the state Department of Labor. In a statement, a spokesperson for the agency said it “cannot comment on pending litigation.”