July 29, 2010

Maragos: Audits Found Medicaid Home Care Aids

 And Other Workers Underpaid by $281,790

            Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos released the Living Wage Law 2009 Annual Report today and restated his office’s commitment to ensuring that all employees covered by the Living Wage Law are compensated correctly.

"The Living Wage Law was created to protect hard working individuals who provide crucial services throughout the County,” Comptroller Maragos said. “My office is charged with the responsibility of ensuring compliance with the Living Wage Law.”

In 2009, the Comptroller’s Living Wage audit fieldwork focused on personal care aide (“PCA”) service providers that contract with the County and had annual 2009 billings to New York State of approximately $73 million. These PCA’s provide assistance to Medicaid recipients in their homes to avoid the more costly option of institutionalizing the patients.

            The Comptroller’s Office audited five of these service providers and two employment agencies that provided temporary personnel services to the County.  Significant violations were identified; the majority concerned failures to pay the hourly wage rates required by the Law or non-compliance with the Law’s requirement to grant workers paid days off or payment in lieu of paid days off. 

            The number of violations identified in the audits increased over 2008 by 71% from 310 to 530 and the amounts these affected employees were shortchanged increased by 105% from $137,596 to $281,790. The majority of this increase is attributed to one of the temporary personnel service providers audited in 2009, which alone underpaid its employees $107,647.

            In response to the audits, the PCA providers stated that they have made (or would make) payment in full to their employees and adjust their policies so that they are in full compliance with the Law.  

            “Considering the amount of publicity the Living Wage Law has received since it became effective in 2007 it was very discouraging to find in 2009 significant non-compliance continuing,” Comptroller Maragos added. “We intend to aggressively increase our oversight to ensure that our home care workers receive the living wage to which they are entitled to as required by law. On a positive note, our follow-up of audits found that employers corrected almost all of their errors and implemented our recommendations in order to comply with the Law.”

            The Comptroller’s Office was made aware of waivers granted to six organizations in 2009 by the prior administration. No documentation to justify supporting the granting of these waivers was provided to the Comptroller. A waiver allows an organization to be exempt from the County Living Wage Laws and hence pay its employees a lower wage. “We will request the detailed rational behind the granting of these waivers by the prior administration, so as not to establish unwise precedents,” stated Comptroller Maragos.

             The Nassau County Living Wage Law was enacted by the Nassau County Legislature in 2006 to raise the minimum wage of employees working for the County and those working for most of its contractors. The Comptroller’s Office is responsible for monitoring compliance with the Law, and the Law requires that the Comptroller report annually to the County Executive and the County Legislature summarizing and assessing the implementation of and compliance with the Law during the preceding year. The Living Wage is currently $13.10 an hour without health benefits or $11.50 with health benefits. This rate will stay in effect until August 1, 2010, when it will increase to $14.16 an hour without health benefits or $12.50 with health benefits.

            Since the inception of the Living Wage Unit in 2007 through December 31, 2009, the Comptroller’s Office has released Living Wage audit reports of 14 different contractors. These audits found that the contractors underpaid their employees by $419,386 for wages and compensated days off, impacting 840 employees.  Each contractor was directed by the Comptroller’s Office to take appropriate corrective action and follow-up reviews will be, or have been, performed to confirm their compliance.  

            Click below for the full report.

Living Wage Law 2009 Annual Report

For more information on the Nassau County Living Wage Law visit our website at http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Comptroller/LivingWage/index.html