Long Island Nursing Home Staffing Company Violates Human Trafficking Laws, says Judge

Nurses from the Phillipines are suing a nursing home staffing company alleging forced work conditions

Placing a loved one in a long-term care facility is a heart-rending decision. And you trust that the staff will do their best to make life comfortable, safe and enjoyable. But shocking new allegations allege that local nursing homes and staffing agencies are violating human rights by using threats to coerce hundreds of Filipino nurses to stay at their jobs.

Allegations Involving Nursing Home Human Rights Violations

A federal judge has ruled that the owners of a Long Island-based nursing home company violated human trafficking laws by using financial threats to coerce more than 200 overworked and underpaid Filipino nurses to stay on the job. Newsday

Judge Nina Gershon, a New York Federal Judge, ruled on September 24, 2019 that the “threat of serious financial harm” if an employee tries to quit, violates anti-trafficking laws. Judge Gershon held that the owners of these staffing companies can be held personally liable for violations of anti-trafficking laws.

It is alleged that many nursing home employees are essentially indentured servants. These employees are allegedly led to believe that they will face huge financial sanctions or even jail time if they don’t comply with the company’s directives. Some of the allegations include paying lower wages than promised and signing false statements before leaving the Philippines. By signing these contracts, they agree to be responsible for fines of up to $25,000 if they leave their jobs before the expiration of their contracts. According the investigation, SentosaCare did file lawsuits against more than 30 Filipino nurses, seeking damages of $25,000 for quitting their job. Now, the nurses are counter-suing.

From a Nursing Home Attorneys Perspective

Our New York nursing home attorneys ask this: How can a caregiver give the best care if they are worried sick that they may go to jail or face deportation if they protest being underpaid and overworked? In America, our nursing home workers have a right to speak up if they sense they are not working in a safe, fair workplace.

These employees are tasked with an important job. They are to provide care and treatment to some of our society’s frailest patients. We need them to be focused and attentive to the job at hand. We cannot afford to ‘trap’ these employees in a job that they cannot leave.

Suing the Nursing Home Staffing Company

Although SentosaCare has been sued in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Rose Ann Paguirigan on behalf of more than two hundred accusers, it is unclear if the company stopped these business practices. In addition to naming SentosaCare, the plaintiffs have also sued Golden Gate Rehabilitation and Health Center in Staten Island and Spring Creek Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Brooklyn in a civil lawsuit.

Even though the Nassau County Supreme Court was made aware of these practices back in 2010, it is alleged that the defendants continue to intimidate and frighten these foreign-born caretakers into believing they cannot leave their job.

This is a deplorable practice. Even worse is the trickle-down effect that may adversely affect your loved ones in a nursing home.

The Effect of Overworked, Underpaid Nurses in a Nursing Home

Nurses have numerous duties, including patient care, educating patients and their loved ones about health options, providing treatment, moving patients to prevent bed sores, etc. Nurses have a huge impact on the physical health of the patients as well as their social and human needs. Nurses are entrusted to care for the people you love the most. But how can they deliver the quality of care you expect when they are living in fear of the corporation owners?

When nurses and staff are not properly taken care of by their employers, the apathy trickles down into the day to day care. They may have to go out and find secondary employment, leaving them tired at work. All this results in worse care for those who need it most; the vulnerable nursing home residents.

So here is the takeaway: while you are in the process of making that critical decision to place your loved one in either a nursing home or long-term care facility, ask questions. You are entitled to know about the nursing staff, who they are, and who employs them. Remember, they can best serve the residents if they are not under duress from their employers. You always want to ensure the best care possible for your family member.

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