Workers file lawsuit against Community Hospice of Modesto, claiming unpaid wages

A lawsuit against Community Hospice of Modesto seeks alleged unpaid wages over a 19-month period for current and former employees.

The class-action complaint was filed in early April in Stanislaus County Superior Court against a hospice organization that was recognized recently as one of the best places to work in the region.

Tyeisha Travis, the plaintiff, claims the nonprofit hospice organization failed to pay overtime and other wages in violation of California labor laws. The suit also alleges Community Hospice did not provide required meal breaks and rest periods for workers and underpaid them for sick time.

According to the lawsuit, the unpaid amounts for current and former employees could be up to $5 million. It doesn’t say how many workers are seeking compensation. The lawsuit is claiming unpaid or underpaid wages between September 2019 and April 13, 2022.

A Southern California law firm that filed the complaint did not return messages seeking comment Monday.

Alisa Bettis, who took over as chief executive officer of Community Hospice in September, also did not comment, but Community Hospice released a statement Monday in response to the litigation.

“Community Hospice is aware of the filing of a class action lawsuit made by the plaintiff, a prior employee. The health and safety of our employees is of the utmost importance, and we work diligently to ensure legal, ethical, and safe practices for all our employees.”

The statement said Community Hospice has retained a legal team and has “every intention to work towards resolution. We will remain transparent through the legal proceedings, however, we will not provide further details or response publicly regarding the allegations made, as it is a personnel matter. We are committed to the privacy of each of our current and prior employees.”

The Modesto-based hospice promised to ensure the legal dispute does not interfere with its mission and care for patients.

According to a news release from the firm representing the workers, Community Hospice was not accurate in its sick pay for employees, which is a violation of the California Labor Code. “Employees routinely earned non-discretionary incentive wages which increased their regular rate of pay. However, when paid sick pay wages, it was allegedly paid at the base rate of pay rather than the higher regular rate pay,” the news release said.

Another claim in the lawsuit is that hospice workers, paid by the hour, were offered an incentive program including performance-based bonuses. But those employees were underpaid for overtime hours because the overtime was paid at the regular pay rate instead of the increased incentive wages, the lawsuit alleges.

Travis, the lead plaintiff, also alleges she was subjected to discrimination and comments about her African-American hairstyle and skin color while working for the hospice. The lawsuit says her complaints to a human resources director about discriminatory treatment were not taken seriously and she resigned April 13, 2022.

Another issue in the case is employee reimbursements for business expenses.

The lawsuit is set for a case management conference in August.

Community Hospice, the largest nonprofit hospice provider in the Central Valley, was recognized in April as one of the 10 best places to work in the Valley by Opportunity Stanislaus, a county workforce development agency.