Crime & Justice

Home care provider sued by LA city attorney for allegedly paying workers half of minimum wage

File: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer speaks to the press during the inaugural National Prosecutorial Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
File: Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer speaks to the press during the inaugural National Prosecutorial Summit on Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2014.
Branden Camp/AP

A Canoga Park home care provider is being sued by L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer for allegedly paying its workers half the city's hourly minimum wage, he announced Wednesday — a practice known as "wage theft."

The home care company allegedly operates under two different names and employs at least 200 workers, many of which are Filipino immigrants. Over the past four years, the companies Health Alliance Nurses Corp. and Hand Homecare Provider Inc. paid workers around $5.50 an hour, according to a statement from Feuer's office — five dollars less than the city's $10.50 minimum wage.

Company owner Emelyn Nishi said the city attorney's lawsuit has no merit, NBC L.A. reported. 

Feuer told KPCC he was appalled to know hardworking caregivers would earn that low of a wage with no overtime. 

"That's nowhere close to what's necessary to afford the most minimal shelter in our city, to afford to put even those most nominal meals on the table for their families," he said. "Providing high quality care should never come at the expense of assuring the caregiver is provided a basic wage."

Feuer declined to comment on the methods behind the city's investigation into the homecare company. 

Filipino Workers Center executive director Aquilina Soriano said in a statement that the case is sending a message that, in L.A., immigrant workers' rights are being protected. 

"Immigrant workers like the Filipina homecare workers of this agency have suffered from poverty wages while providing heartfelt, quality care to the elders of our city," she said.

L.A.'s minimum wage is set to rise to $12 an hour on July 1.  

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against further alleged unlawful, unfair and fraudulent business acts, as well as restitution to all current and former employees who were not paid minimum wages or overtime, according to the city attorney's statement. In addition, defendants could face civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation.