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Emeritus Senior Living to pay $2.2 million settlement

A group of California workers has settled a claim that Emeritus Senior Living has underpaid workers and failed to give required breaks. Emeritus is the largest assisted living facility in the United States. It operates dozens of facilities located in California and nearly 500 facilities across the country. The company has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the dispute. The plaintiffs include non-salaried aids and support staff that provide hands-on care to hundreds of senior citizens. The number of plaintiffs was not disclosed.

The lawsuit alleges that Emeritus did not pay employees the wages they were due in accordance with wage and overtime law. Employees also claimed that Emeritus did not observe state law regarding required rest and meal periods. It is alleged that workers did not receive overtime and were not compensated for training where attendance was mandatory.

Research indicates that Emeritus has cut costs in a way that leads many facilities to be understaffed and has caused employee complaints of heavy workloads and insufficient wages. Executives at Emeritus were reported as believing that controlled labor costs are the key to the company's financial success, which can attract investors. A representative for the company stated that Emeritus' facilities have adequate staffing and that employees are compensated in accordance with the law.

The law requires California employers to pay non-exempt employees at least minimum wage for all hours worked and time and a half for any hours that exceed eight in one work day. Employees may be entitled to meal breaks and rest periods. An employer may not classify employees as exempt or independent contractors to avoid these laws. An employment law attorney may be able to help those employees who are underpaid or not given breaks seek fair compensation.

Source: Pro Publica, "Workers Win $2 Million Settlement From Assisted Living Giant", Joe Sexton, August 22, 2013

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