While many domestic workers had cause to celebrate in September of 2016, some California hotel housekeepers quickly found that the bill granting permanent California overtime protection for domestic workers did not apply to them. For instance, a hotel owner in East Oakland refused to provide overtime compensation to six housekeepers in his employ. As a result, the employees, along with a legal advocacy firm working on their behalf and the City of Oakland, filed a California Overtime Lawsuit against the Oakland Quality Inn.
In the California overtime lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited additional employment law violations, including:
· The hotel required employees to work off the clock both before and after shifts.
· The hotel did not provide mandatory breaks as required by labor law.
· The hotel retaliated against employees who phoned in sick to work.
The labor law violations cited by the plaintiffs have allegedly been in practice for a minimum of four years. The plaintiffs, one of which only speaks Spanish, got in touch with attorneys at a legal advocacy to seek assistance in obtaining resolution of the matter.
Media reports indicate that legal counsel involved in the case indicated that both fear and employer retaliation are a big problem not just at this one isolated hotel in Oakland, but throughout the housekeeping industry and that they are a tool used to exploit housekeeping staff. The six immigrant women involved in this particular case had to overcome great personal fear in order to seek justice in their difficult situation.
Lead plaintiff in the case gave a city statement saying that she felt bad about her housekeeping position with Oakland Quality Inn because they were suffering in their position – they were worked excessively, were not provided overtime compensation, or offered any overtime or sick time. She specified that they weren’t paid for time off even if they provided a doctor’s note to the hotel.
The lawsuit was filed jointly by the City of Oakland and a legal advocacy firm in Alameda County Superior Court on January 31st, 2017. According to Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, it is the city’s first lawsuit under the minimum wage ordinance that voters passed in the fall of 2014. As of March 2015, Oakland’s minimum wage was set at $12.25 with a cost of living increase annually bringing it up to $12.86 per hour.
In the state of California all domestic workers, including hotel housekeepers, are entitled to overtime compensation.
Statistics from the UCLA Labor Center make it clear just how applicable the issue is to California workers with about 2 million California households hiring domestic workers:
· Housecleaning (54%)
· Homecare Support for Seniors/Disabled Individuals (27%)
· Childcare (19%)
Many domestic workers are live-in workers with a number of them working 24-hour shifts. While the signing of bill AB241 granted overtime protection for domestic workers, many are still being exploited in hotels, private facilities, and private homes. While legal protections are in place, the question now is one of enforcement.
The suit seeks unpaid wages/compensation for employees plus penalties and damages.
If you need assistance determining whether or not you are entitled to overtime pay, or if you need to discuss other labor law violations in your workplace, please get in touch with one of the experienced northern California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal, Nordrehaug & Bhowmik.