Lawsuit: Owners of Hayward nursing home with raging COVID-19 outbreak charged employees for health care but never bought the policies

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By Thomas Peele and Annie Sciacca | Bay Area News | May 1, 2020

The owners of Gateway Care and Rehabilitation and 15 other nursing homes are accused of taking money from employees paychecks for health care, but never buying the policies

The owners of a chain of nursing homes, including Gateway Care and Rehabilitation in Hayward where 13 patients have died COVID-19, have been accused in a lawsuit of fraudulently withholding their employees’ health insurance.

The suit, filed this week in San Francisco Superior Court, claims that Prema and Antony Thekkek withheld money from workers’ paychecks that was supposed to go toward health coverage, but never bought the policies. The workers have been without coverage since December, the suit claims, and went through the same thing from January to May of 2019.

The employees “have universally been deprived of the full amount of their wages,” the suit alleges and have been “unable to seek medical care, visit their own physicians, and procure prescription medications.” Employees have been forced to pay “pay out-of-pocket” for medical expenses, it alleges.

The suit does not mention any coronavirus cases or illnesses suffered by employees. It seeks class-action status to involve workers at 16 skilled nursing facilities the Thekkeks own across the state, including ones in Alameda, Sonoma, Solano, Contra Costa, San Joaquin and San Mateo counties.

On April 17, the state reported that a total of 102 patients and staff at Gateway had tested positive for COVID-19. The county reported that 13 people have died at the facility, but that number has not been updated since April 16.

The Thekkeks, of Alamo in Contra Costa County, did not immediately respond to messages Friday. Lawyers who filed the suit were also not immediately available for comment.

But the facilities owned and operated by the Thekkeks have a history of problems, with multiple serious violations recorded by state inspectors. They have been denied licenses to open new facilities and they were forced to close a nursing home in Sebastopol — Fircrest Convalescent Hospital, after the facility failed to contain a flu outbreak and a norovirus outbreak.

Staff writer Ethan Baron contributed to this report.