“Investigators at the Department of Industrial Relations work to protect workers from financial and physical harm by investigating working conditions, pay and benefits, and whether a company is adhering to California labor laws.” – CSLEA President Alan Barcelona
LONG BEACH—On September 28, 2022, the Labor Commissioner’s Office announced that it has cited Angel Connection Nursing Care and Angel Connection Nursing Services for improperly misclassifying 66 home health care workers as independent contractors. Investigators determined that Annabelle Ricasata, the owner of Angel Connection Nursing Care, is a full-time employee of Angel Connection Nursing Services, and that she misclassified the employees as independent contractors to avoid paying required wages, workers’ compensation insurance and payroll taxes.
The two Long Beach-based companies must pay more than $1.8 million for the wage theft violations, including failure to pay 22 workers overtime wages, nine of whom were also not paid minimum wages due. One of the businesses also failed to maintain workers’ compensation insurance or provide proper itemized wage statements for the misclassified employees.
“When workers are misclassified as independent contractors, there is a damaging domino effect that impacts all levels of our economy. In this case, caretakers were systematically denied minimum wage, overtime, and other legally required working conditions,” said California Labor Commissioner Lilia García-Brower. “Workers are often unaware they are being misclassified and denied basic rights. My office collaborates with trusted partners who bring these cases forward that would otherwise go unreported. Unscrupulous employers who misclassify workers do so not only to dodge obligations but also to gain an unfair business advantage over employers who comply with the law.”
The Labor Commissioner’s Office opened its investigation into Angel Connection Inc. (dba Angel Connection Nursing Services) and J Jireh Group (which uses the name Angel Connection Nursing Care) after receiving a referral from the Pilipino Workers Center and Bet Tzedek Legal Services.
Angel Connection Nursing Services exercised control over the wages, hours and working conditions of Angel Connection Nursing Care’s employees who were misclassified as independent contractors.
Angel Connection Nursing Care owner Ricasata and Angel Connection Nursing Services owners Merjilyn Chu and Joseph Fortunato are jointly and severally liable for the $1,021,393 due to workers, which includes $213,163 in unpaid minimum wages, $283,058 in liquidated damages, $329,515 in overtime wages, $14,123 contract wages, and $181,534 in interest.
Angel Connection Nursing Care is also liable for $330,000 for the misclassification of 66 workers, $171,000 for failure to provide itemized wage statements, and $357,046 for a Stop Order Penalty Assessment for failure to provide workers’ compensation insurance.
Enforcement investigations typically include a payroll audit of the previous three years to determine minimum wage, overtime, and other labor law violations and calculate payments owed and penalties due. When workers are paid less than minimum wage, they are entitled to liquidated damages that equal the amount of underpaid wages plus interest.
Misclassification occurs when an employer improperly classifies their employees as independent contractors to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime or payroll taxes. Misclassification also undermines businesses that play by the rules. A misclassified worker is denied the legal right to workers’ compensation coverage if injured on the job, the right to family leave, the right to unemployment insurance, the right to organize or join a union, and protection against employer retaliation.
California law requires civil penalties to be transferred to the State’s General Fund when collected.
The Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, also known as the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, combats wage theft and unfair competition by investigating allegations of illegal and unfair business practices.