Horror Stories from Hiring Caregivers – Part 1
I help a lot of families, trustees, conservators and other fiduciaries resolve disputes with caregivers. I also represent a number of caregivers in disputes with the families that hired them. I frequently educate those in the circle of care regarding the common pitfalls when hiring caregivers. I encourage families to use reputable care agencies or 3rd party employers because most families are not prepared to become employers.
The following real case is a cautionary tale to show how innocent mistakes can lead to dire consequences. I left out the names to protect the parties, but the facts are real.
Sleeping with the Enemy
My first venture into what can happen when hiring caregivers was in 2007. A colleague represented a trustee who, along with the conservator, wanted to terminate the caregiver. Not only had the caregiver moved her entire family into the home, the caregiver was sleeping with the successor trustee who was trying to undermine the current trustee. The caregiver and her family damaged the home, and were treating the employer’s credit card as their personal bank. In order to ease the transition, they offered the caregiver a fairly generous severance, which the caregiver rejected. We suspect the successor trustee helped her in that decision.
The trustee had to initiate an unlawful detainer action to remove the caregiver and her family. When she finally left, the trustee discovered burned cabinets, rat feces in the kitchen, missing furniture, and soiled clothing strewn about the home.
The caregiver hired an attorney, who demanded $350,000 in unpaid wages. The attorney claimed the caregiver worked 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. Because the caregiver only received $750 per week, the wages did not cover all hours worked, even at minimum wage. At that time, caregivers were not entitled to overtime. We spent significant time, money and resources convincing the opposing counsel that the caregiver was not owed the wages she claimed. Unfortunately, when you added the various penalties, the claim was worth more than $350,000 . Fortunately, the opposing counsel didn’t figured that out before we settled the case.
We agreed to early mediation and with the help of a very good mediator, resolved the case without litigation. My client paid the caregiver $94,500 in back wages, and paid her attorney $63,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
It is important to note that this case took place over 10 years ago, when caregivers were not entitled to overtime. Had this case occurred today, the liability would have been significantly greater.
What lessons did we learn regarding hiring caregivers?
- It’s never a good idea to let the caregiver’s family move into the residence.
- Hiring a single caregiver to provide care to an elderly or disabled person increases the chance of elder or dependent-adult abuse.
- Hiring a single caregiver to provide 24/7 care is costly.
- Allowing an employee to sleep with a family member can get expensive.
More stories will follow.
If you, or someone you know, has questions about employing or hiring caregivers, feel free to contact the Nuddleman Law Firm. I represent caregivers, families, fiduciaries, attorneys, care agencies, home health agencies, residential care facilities and others involved in the circle of care.
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.
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