Filipino caregivers stage wage protest at Fresno assisted living home

The Fresno BeeJanuary 23, 2014 

A group of Filipino caregivers protested outside a northeast Fresno assisted living home Thursday, urging the owner of the business to pay them back wages and overtime totaling $1.6 million.

The workers are supported by a May 2013 decision by the California Labor Commissioner that cited the Bedford Care Group of Fresno for labor law violations, including unpaid minimum wage and overtime, meal and rest break violations and failure to issue itemized wage statements.

Bedford Care Group operates six assisted living facilities in Fresno and Clovis. The company's owner, Stephanie Costa, has filed an appeal of the state's decision, saying the workers were paid fairly. As part of the appeal process, Costa and her attorney will present their side Monday during a hearing at the Fresno office of the Department of Fair Labor Standards and Enforcement.

"We have their time sheets showing they were paid," said Costa.

Workers and their advocates dispute Costa's claim, saying the company owner is guilty of wage theft.

"This is an injustice," said Nerissa Roque, a former employee of the Bedford Care Group. "We are very upset and sad and want the owner to pay us what we are owed."

Roque worked at one of the Bedford homes for 14 months, providing round-the-clock care for the residents.

"We love the people we take care of," she said. "But we also need to be paid fairly."

During the state's investigation, the Labor Commissioner's office found Bedford owed 11 workers $1.3 million in unpaid overtime spanning from November 2011 through April 2013. The company also is accused of not paying $17,025 in minimum wage and $95,053 in meal and rest period premiums. Bedford was also fined $114,500 in penalties.

Advocates say the Bedford case is one of the more serious they have seen in recent years.

"Sadly, this is not an isolated incident," said Gina Szeto, attorney for the San Francisco-based Asian Americans Advancing Justice. "Wage theft is rampant in the caregiver industry. And this is just one example."

In spreading word about Thursday's rally, leaders of the group identified its members as Filipino.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6327, or @FresnoBeeBob on Twitter.

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