The owners of three San Diego residential care facilities will have to pay more than $2.2 million for “egregious” wage theft violations, forcing nine caregivers to work 24-hour shifts for less than $2 an hour, the California Labor Commission said Wednesday.
Lamberto “June” DeLeon and Jesusan DeLeon, the owners of Fairhill Castle LLC, face multiple minimum wage, overtime, meal period and workers’ compensation violations for how they ran their businesses from September 2013 to August 2014.
During their investigation, Labor Commission officials found the owners would hire two people — typically a husband and wife team — to work at each of their three facilities, located on Fairhill Drive, Prather Place and San Diego Street in Spring Valley.
The employees were told to provide 24-hour care, six to seven days a week, to elderly residents who had Alzheimer’s or advanced stage dementia. Some were bedridden or receiving hospice care.
For their work, the employees were paid between $1.25 and $1.80 an hour in cash, according to the commission.
Investigators said during their eight years of operation, the DeLeons had not reported wages to the proper state, federal and local agencies, and they did not have a history of workers’ compensation coverage.
Though the Labor Commissioner typically only cites the business entity, Lamberto was also cited as an individual because “he caused the violations through his daily control of the facilities’ operations,” officials said in a news release.
The DeLeons must pay $1,332,129 for underpaid wages and premiums, $716,846 for liquidated damages and $171,305 for civil penalties.
An appeal in this case wrapped up earlier this year, but not before the DeLeons closed the facilities under the Fairhill Castle business name, officials say.
The Fairhill Drive location has since been reopened under the name Jade's House, with their eldest daughter Emmercelle listed as the owner.
The daughter said her business, which is now an independent living facility, is completely separate from the Fairhill Castle facilities, and her parents have no part in the operation. She said her family has no comment about the Labor Commission fines.
NBC 7 Investigates, which has been covering wage theft in California, discovered state courts have identified more than $273 million in stolen wages.
We analyzed five years of wage claim data generated by the state Labor Commission, and the numbers are staggering: California workers are owed more than $250 million for hours worked but never paid by their employers. San Diego-area workers are owed at least $820,000.
NBC 7 Investigates also learned that the state Labor Commissioner does not track whether companies comply with those judgments, and no state agency enforces them. Workers must sometimes file lawsuits in civil court to try to collect wages owed them. Those lawsuits cost money, with no certainty of success.