Last January, Californian Stephanie Costa appeared on Millionaire Matchmaker, a reality TV program on Bravo. The show helps self-described millionaires find suitable romantic partners. On the show, the 30 year-old Costa boasted about her Beverly Hills mansion and her multiple motor vehicles, all of which she stated she paid for by owning the company Bedford Care Group. Bedford Care Group runs six assisted living facilities for the elderly throughout California.
While Costa was trying to become a reality TV star and flaunting her wealth, she was also allegedly mistreating her employees by violating several state labor laws. Now, just over a year after her luxurious television appearance, Costa instead finds herself in a legal hearing to appeal a decision against her by the Office of the California Labor Commissioner.
Labor Commissioner Decision
Last year, after an investigation, the California Labor Commissioner found that Costa and Bedford Care Group violated several state wage and hour laws with the following actions:
- Expecting employees to work significantly extended shifts;
- Not allowing the proper breaks for meals or rest under the law;
- Not paying certain employees the 2013 state minimum wage of $8.00 per hour (the CA minimum wage will rise to $9.00 per hour on July 1, 2014);
- Not paying the required time and a half overtime wages for hours worked over 40 per week;
- Failing to provide proper itemized pay statements that would allow employees to track their hours and check for accuracy.
The employees stated they continued working for Costa because they cared about the elderly residents of the Bedford Care Group facilities, however 11 former employees finally brought a claim against Costa and the company. The plaintiffs stated they could no longer stand for the injustice of the labor law violations, and that they hope their case will not negatively affect the residents of the facilities in any way.
After investigating the claims, the Labor Commissioner determined that Bedford Care Group owes the 11 former employees and the state nearly $1.6 million in compensation and penalties. The penalties break down as follows:
- $1.3 million to the employees for unpaid overtime;
- $95,053 to the employees for missed meal and rest breaks;
- $17,025 to the employees for unpaid minimum wage;
- $114,500 to the state in civil penalties for the violations.
Costa and the Bedford Care Group are not going down without a fight, as she entered the Labor Office for an appellate hearing in late January 2014. Costa claimed she had timesheets to demonstrate that the company paid all employees adequate wages for the hours they worked. However, the 11 former employees stated these timesheets were falsified and maintain their allegations. Employees of the Bedford Care Group took to the streets in protest while Costa was in her appeal to try to make their case public. The appellate decision is still pending.
California takes wage and hour laws very seriously. If you believe your employer has violated any labor laws, you should not hesitate to contact the Pershing Square Law Firm for assistance with a possible case today.