State of California, DPSS, IHSS Complaint - Not paid for 2 months now!
POMONA, CALIFORNIA -- I will do my best to describe the situation. I am seriously limited as to what I can state here due to HIPAA regulations.
Last January (2005), I began taking care of a client with advanced ALS. The client is in need of 24 hour total care, and lives in their home. I filled out all the necessary paperwork (or at least I thought I did) and began working.
In February I had to threaten to quit because I had not been paid for services rendered, and the client was now attempting to get me to pay them $300.00 monthly for the privilege of being on call 24/7 without pay. Our agreement was for $8.10/hr, plus beni's, plus free room and board. I can easily make twice that at area hospitals with my background and experience, but was doing this as a favor for a teacher of mine (who is also the client's friend).
Around mid February, I was contacted by the Pomona, CA district DPSS office's IHSS (In Home Supportive Services), and told the reason I hadn't been paid yet is because they had not received any paperwork. I went to the office, completed the paperwork, and handed it to the case worker for the client personally. I was told I would be paid for February, but not January. The client subsequently paid me for January.
2 weeks ago I received time sheets to be completed for March 2005, however there was no check. When I called DPSS/IHSS, I was told that they had overpaid another provider who billed them for 283 hours (he worked less than half that), and that they were fixing the matter and I should receive a check for the 141.5 billable hours I am authorized for February within a week.
Last week the provider who was overpaid told me I would not be paid for February 2005. Seems the case worker decided he could keep the money and that I didn't need to get paid, or something to that effect. I have been unable to get in touch with anyone at DPSS/IHSS beyond leaving messages on their voicemail. I am now also owed (past due) for the first half of March 2005 (70.75 hours).
As of this writing, I am owed for 283 hours work performed at $8.10 per hour (the agreed upon rate). This is not the actual hours I've worked, which are 20% more, just the ones I'm allowed to bill the state for. I am now owed $2,292.30, and have no clue as to when I might get paid.
The thing I did notice is that the caregivers who are working "under the table" are paid promptly and a salary, one gets $320 a week whether she works or not. She never works nights, weekends, or any overtime. She has not shown up for work at least 25% of the days she is assigned, and is late arriving and leaves early on all the others.
I work nights, weekends, holidays, etc. I am live in, so I deal with ANY and ALL emergencies that come up, and they do come up frequently. I work 40 plkus hours weekly, and get paid for less than 70% of the work I do. I am always early for and leave late from my assignment. I go above and beyond to care for my client, and have saved her life twice in the last 30 days in incidents stemming from negligence on the part of other caregivers.
It now appears I have done it all for free. In addition, I am being harassed and threatened into quitting, something that makes this whole situation not worth it. Between this and the non-payment situation, I gave notice yesterday. They want me to keep working until they find a replacement (I assume for free, no doubt), but I informed them they have until I find another job (which should be fairly quickly).
One must wonder how many other caregivers have been defrauded and then harassed or threatened when they refuse to work twice as hard as everyone else for no pay.
My client is judgment proof. The state refuses to honor their agreement to pay me for services, and claims my only recourse is against the client. Meanwhile, I am the only caregiver who hasn't been paid. All the others get paid rather well, and from what a gather the money is the overpayment that resulted from my wages being redirected to another provider.
Meanwhile, the union that is supposed to protect caregivers from this sort of fraud (SEIU 434B) has yet to respond to my inquiries as to how best to resolve this situation and get my back pay. I did finally get an application for health coverage, about an hour after I gave notice.
The moral to this story? All caregivers should require the CLIENT to pay them weekly, and refuse to return to work the first time a check is late or dishonored. Let the client bill the state or county agency, and put up with all the hassle involved with that. Get ALL financial and living arrangements in writing, in advance of performing any work, and get it notarized and witnessed by a disinterested third party. Also, refuse to work for any client who is "judgment proofed" by their family, unless you can get whomever has all the assets to agree to be the responsible party for payment for your services.
The second the deal is broken, start looking for employment elsewhere. You are required to finish your last shift (you can be arrested if you don't, and barred from healthcare, for abandoning your patient), but refuse to return until paid for ALL services rendered to date. You are not obligated to give notice to any employer who is late with or does not pay you what you have rightfully earned.
Too many people want something for nothing, and it is the honest and open-hearted ones who end up paying the price.