Fresno reality TV star slapped with labor law violations

FRESNO, Calif.

A local businesswoman and reality TV star once featured in the hit show Millionaire Matchmaker now has to answer to the state.

Stephanie Costa is the owner of Bedford Care Group. She's been slapped with more than $1 million in fines and she's accused of labor law violations.

More than a dozen caregivers will testify against their former employer at the local labor office next week. They say the woman who made it big on the small screen was undercutting her staff.

Caregivers and advocates marched through a Northeast Fresno neighborhood on Thursday morning. Standing in front of a residential care facility, they said conditions they worked under were so severe that they had no choice but to bring it to the labor commission.

Attorney Gina Szeto said, "They weren't getting paid minimum wage, they weren't getting paid overtime, meal and rest breaks, and they weren't getting accurate itemized wage statements."

Thirteen former caregivers for the Bedford Care Group joined forces. All worked at various residential care facilities across Fresno and Clovis.

Juliet Delos Reyes says she loved her job, but not the way she was treated. "We work so hard for her, so that the residents live with dignity up until the last chapter of their life we even hold their hands when they have the last breath of their life."

She's talking about Stephanie Costa, who was featured on an episode of Bravo's Millionaire Matchmaker. Costa talked about her business, and the show featured her home and cars in Beverly Hills.

Action News went to one of her residential care facilities in Clovis to ask about the fines and about her former employees. Costa waved but wouldn't stop to talk to us.

Juliet Delos Reyes said, "We know what is our right and don't abuse us because we're doing the hard work."

The Labor Commissioner called it "wage theft" and said they're ensuring that workers are paid the wages they've earned.

The Bedford Care Group was ordered to pay more than a million dollars in unpaid overtime, $17-thousand in unpaid minimum wage and $95-thousand in meal and rest period premiums. It's a case that Bay Area attorneys hope set a precedent for caregivers.

Attorney Gina Szeto said, "Workers are typically pretty scared to file claims against their employers, it's pretty hard to get a worker to stand up for their rights."

The appeal hearing is next week. After the Bedford Care Group and each caregiver testifies the state will make a decision on whether the fines will stand.

Action News tried to contact the Bedford Care Group and its owner but were unsuccessful.

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