"The night attendants sleep at the centers because someone needs to look after the clients/patients, even when they are sleeping," explains Julie (not her real name). "They are made to sign a waiver that says they are willing to sleep at the rehab homes but not get paid. They cannot leave the premises, but they will get paid if they are woken up for any reason. They are verbally told they will be paid in 15-minute increments during the time they are awake."
This practice didn't feel right to Julie. She had a suspicion that the CEO was violating the California labor code by not paying overtime. But when she questioned the CEO, he said that the attendants "are lucky to have jobs."
"He then told me to fire anyone who complains about overtime," says Julie. "I said, 'Well, that's not a very good way to run a business.' He replied, 'Who's the CEO here?'
"Guess why I only worked there eight months?
"I spoke with these attendants and told them it was wrong not to get paid overtime. I told them it wasn't right that they aren't getting paid to sleep here, but they said it's okay, as long as they have a job.
"These attendants are typically recovering addicts. The CEO hires them not necessarily to help but because they are emotionally vulnerable and don't know their rights. This guy has been using people for 30 years—he has never paid overtime.
"Even yesterday when I spoke with one of the attendants, they justify their work and make themselves feel better by saying, 'At least I know I am helping people.' That is sad. The CEO knows this and preys upon it.
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"Anything I can do to help people realize they aren't alone is important to me. I am going to email this interview to the current employees at the CHCADA to hopefully provide them with strength, so they don't feel they are alone and feel strong enough to speak out and stand up for their rights. We are talking about a lot of overtime pay: 365 days over 30 years; 20 employees per night who don't get paid from 10 pm until 7 am. That's a big chunk of change."