NCLEJ Demands Federal Government Investigate NYSDOL and DOH for Discriminating Against Home Care Workers

Contact: Carmela Huang, National Center for Law and Economic Justice |

New York, NY — Today the National Center for Law and Economic Justice has filed a complaint in partnership with National Mobilization Against Sweatshops, Chinese Staff & Workers Association, Flushing Workers Center and the Ain’t I a Woman?! Campaign to demand an investigation into state agencies’ race and national origin discrimination.

Home care aides are forced to work 24-hour shifts for only 13-hours of compensation. The overwhelming majority of those experiencing these discriminatory labor practices are immigrants and people of color. Citing rights protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin, the complaint demands federal investigation of the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) for their discrimination against home care workers and home care consumers. 

To announce the complaint and demand swift action from the federal government, the groups are hosting a press event and rally tomorrow, October 12, 2022 at 10:30 AM ET at the NYS Department of Labor located at 199 Church Street in New York, NY.

“No one wants to work 24-hour shifts,” said Yan Qin Huang, an aide employed by Chinese-American Planning Council Home Attendant Program. “But would you dare say no to the agency?”

Some workers have tried. Justa Barrios’ doctor gave her a note that she could not work 24 hours anymore, but when the agency refused to give her work other than 24-hour shifts, she just kept on working. Alvaro Ramirez told his employer First Chinese Presbyterian Community Affairs Home Attendant Corporation that he would no longer work “live-in” shifts. “I said no,” Alvaro Ramirez recounted. “I wasn’t going to work 24 hours. Then they said, ‘Alvaro, you are out of the agency.’”

“NYSDOL and NYSDOH are willfully ignoring rampant violations of the law in the home care industry, where the workforce is overwhelmingly immigrant women of color,” said Carmela Huang, Senior Attorney at National Center for Law and Economic Justice. “Our complaint calls this out for what it is—discrimination by the state against immigrants and workers of color.”

NCLEJ’s complaint details various ways in which NYSDOL and NYSDOH have created a system that discriminates against home care workers throughout the state. Despite clear legal mandates, NYSDOL refuses to enforce the requirement that workers receive a minimum of five hours of uninterrupted sleep and three hours of meal breaks, and does not timely investigate home care worker complaints. And NYSDOH mandates employers to use a scheduling system that it knows will cause home care workers to be unlawfully scheduled for shifts that force them to work 24-hours non-stop but be paid for only 13 hours.

“The DOL and DOH says workers are required to get a minimum of five hours of uninterrupted sleep and three hours of meal breaks. These regulations are widely disregarded,” said JoAnn Lum, of the Ain’t I a Woman Campaign. “When consumers require care around the clock, there should be two home care workers to split shifts into day and night shifts. These rules are not being enforced to the detriment of home care workers and consumers of home care.”

The Ain’t I a Woman Campaign is a national outreach and educational effort led by women workers to demand those benefiting from sweatshop labor be held accountable. The campaign has advocated for enforcement of labor laws and a prohibition of 24-hour workdays for several years. Since 2018, worker members of Chinese Staff & Workers Association and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops have filed complaints with the NYSDOL for the unpaid wages they are owed from working through the night on 24-hour shifts. All cases filed in 2018 have yet to see responses from the agency. The NYSDOL took up to nine months to begin docketing complaint cases filed in 2022.