On September 9th, Hon. Carol Edmead of the New York State Supreme Court issued a decision in Chen v. Chinese-American Planning Council Home Attendant Program, that workers could pursue a class action against their employer. An article summarizing the decision appeared in the New York Law Journal earlier this week.
Home attendant workers have been coming together and organizing despite their isolating work conditions, and despite the employer’s attempts to use the union and the New York State Department of Labor (“DOL”) against them. Many who have come forward were forced to work a grueling 24-hour shift taking care of sick and elderly patients without even 5 straight hours to sleep. In the employer’s latest attempt to evade responsibility, the Chinese American Planning Council (“CPC”) used DOL opinion letters to justify not paying workers for 12 hours of their 24-hour shifts or training time, and even tried to use a settlement with the DOL to claim they have no liability. CPC also tried using the union’s collective bargaining agreement to undermine the higher “living wage” they owe the workers, and to re-direct the workers’ claims through arbitration in which the union, and not the workers themselves, would be directing the charges. Justice Edmead’s decision threw out all of CPC’s attempts to dismiss the workers’ claims, and the class action lawsuit is moving forward. This decision has a huge impact on thousands of workers who have labored as home attendants for CPC across New York, and many thousands more home attendants who face similar conditions.
Most significantly, the workers are coming together to speak out about the mandatory 24-hour shifts that cause physical injuries and mental anguish. Whether paid or not, working 24 hours leaves workers with no time to do anything but work. As more home attendant workers come forward, they are not only pursuing the lawsuit for their unpaid wages, but they are also demanding an end to the mandatory overtime. If you are interested in learning more or organizing more workers, please contact us to find out what you can do to get involved!