State sues hospital chain over unpaid wages

by Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at May 18 2013 01:12 PM | Updated as of May 18 2013 09:12 PM

BELLFLOWER, California - Imagine coming into work and not getting paid. That’s what Filipinos at several Southern California hospitals said has been going on.

For the past year, hospital workers at the Bellflower Medical Center have described their pay days as uncertain and frustrating as the hospital has delayed their salaries and have paid them with checks that have bounced.

“Since January 11, every payday, most of the paychecks of the employees are bouncing. I do actually have an outstanding check, my pay check from March 8th, which bounced on March 14, which bounced again on the 19th. After that they don’t want to release the replacements,” said Bellflower worker, Femina Reyes David.

“HR doesn’t know anything. Nobody’s giving us any answers so everybody is upset,” said another worker, Anna Garcia.

The problems started last year after the hospital chain had paid a $16.5 million settlement with the federal government after its involvement in an alleged Medicare scheme where they were charging the government for performing bogus procedures on homeless people.

The Department of Labor Relations has fined them over $7 million for late wages and bounced checks to their employees.

The California Labor Commission has filed a $100 million lawsuit saying the hospital chain failed to legally notify employees of layoffs.

Despite the uncertainty, employees continued to work until patients were eventually relocated. Later on, they were all told to stop coming in for work.

“Unfortunately, there’s no letter that was distributed or received regarding any layoffs. So technically, we’re still employees but working as under time. But we cannot even get our paychecks,” David added.

Some of the workers have considered hiring their own lawyers as they try to make ends meet.

“It’s hard just having to use some of our savings,” said Garcia.

“Some of us have two jobs. We have two to three jobs because we need it, because one job is not enough. So they cannot deprive us of the right to get what we deserve,” David added.

Pacific Health has turned down requests for interviews regarding the salary issues or the lawsuit, but it filed a letter to the Los Angeles County Health Department last month, saying that it is in financial distress and over a million dollars behind in salary payments.