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Night Attendant Owed California Overtime—Big Time

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Sacramento, CAEdward, a former night attendant at a drug rehab center, was contacted by an attorney who advised him and another former co-worker to file a California overtime class action lawsuit. "My attorney believes I am owed $30,000 in overtime pay, but I am afraid of retaliation from my new employers," says Edward.

"My shift began at 5 pm and ended at 8 am, which is 15 hours per day, five days a week," Edward explains. But he was only paid for eight hours a day. From 11 pm until 6 am, Edward was supposed to sleep in a room at the California Hispanic Commission on Alchohol and Drug Abuse (CHCADA) rehab center.

"Being a night attendant is similar to being a fireman; even if you weren't putting out a fire, you had to be there. And firemen get paid for every hour they are at the firehall"
"I didn't want to sleep at the CHCADA—I have a home and a family, and even if I wanted to, it was impossible to sleep," says Edward. "I talked to my manager about not getting overtime and he told me that I get to sleep for seven hours. 'Do you think I want to sleep here?' I replied.

"The room was downstairs from the residents, and people were always coming and going. The residents weren't allowed to have guests so I had to make sure nobody came in and they weren't bringing in drugs, and I had to watch the office. Some people would be sick with withdrawals all night so when they were awake, so was I.

"Being a night attendant is similar to being a fireman; even if you weren't putting out a fire, you had to be there. And firemen get paid for every hour they are at the firehall.

"I was the only night attendant during the week and there was one weekend attendant. No one was paid overtime. My friend, who was night attendant for the women, worked there for two years and she had no idea that CHCADA was violating the California labor code, and that we were owed overtime. She is an ex-heroin addict and not very well-educated and she was laid off due to budget cuts. Most people who work at the center are ex-dope fiends and they are just happy to have a job, but I believe they are being taken advantage of. I've never done drugs and I wasn't happy, but I didn't want to complain because I needed the job, I have bills to pay and a family to support. I know I would have been fired if I complained.

"The reason I am hesitant to start a class action is because I know my new employer will find out—it is a very tight community and everyone knows everyone else. The majority of people who have been in one treatment center typically go to another, and they talk. My friend will file regardless, but she doesn't understand what to do. If there is a way that I could have anonymity at the beginning of a lawsuit, I will go forward. If I am awarded a settlement and lose this job, the money from a California overtime lawsuit will be enough for me to get another trade. I want to become a chemical dependency case worker and I have another year left at school. I am going to school during the day and working at night—I'm 47 so I don't need so much sleep as I used to, but I would like to spend more time with my family and not work 15-hour days.

"CHCADA has had this policy for years so a lot of people are owed overtime compensation. I never had a written contract regarding these hours but three days after I started, my manager told me that I had to spend those hours at the center. I didn't think about overtime back then, I was just glad to have a job. When I told my mother I was working those hours she said, 'That is wrong, that is illegal!' That's when I called a lawyer."

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