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LOS ANGELES (CNS) — A lawsuit filed Wednesday, May 10, accuses the owner of two Canoga Park-based home care provider companies of failing to pay her employees minimum wage and overtime.

The suit filed by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer alleges that Emelyn Nishi and her companies, Health Alliance Nurses Corp. and Hand Homecare Provider Inc., over the last four years underpaid her 200-plus employees up to $9 million in wages.

“Stealing wages from hardworking people just trying to make ends meet is reprehensible,” Feuer said at a news conference at City Hall East. “I want to emphasize, no worker should be forced into poverty because their employer denies them a wage to which the law entitles them. My office is going to aggressively pursue allegations of wage theft.”

Nishi could not be reached for comment. An employee who answered the phone at Hand Homecare Provider said Nishi no longer owned the company.

The employees, mostly Filipino immigrants, were paid as little as $5.50 an hour, while the city’s current minimum wage is $10.50, the suit alleges.

Feuer alleged that Nishi’s companies charged clients between $170 and $250 per day for 24-hour in-home domestic care, while the employees were paid $100 to $125 per shift.

“This case is sending an important message, that here in Los Angeles city, immigrant workers’ rights are being protected, and that immigrant workers’ rights are important to the well-being of our entire city as a whole,” said Aquilina Soriano, executive director of the Filipino Workers Center.

Feuer said his office is seeking an injunction to stop the alleged underpayment of Nishi’s workers, financial restitution for the employees and civil penalties of up to $2,500 per infraction.

The lawsuit alleges that the employees were pressured to falsify time records to avoid overtime payments, routinely threatened with termination or blacklisting within the industry, prohibited from discussing rates directly with clients and often threatened with exorbitant contractual penalties for entering into a direct hire position with clients.

The lawsuit also alleges that the defendant classified her caregiver employees as independent contractors to avoid payroll taxes while sidestepping government investigations.

Feuer said other workers who may be the victims of wage theft can come forward and report wrongdoing anonymously to his office by sending an email to mike.n.feuer@lacity.org or calling (213) 978-1868.

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