OAKLAND -- A class-action lawsuit filed Wednesday against a leading nationwide health care services company alleges caregivers tending to the elderly, ill and disabled in the Bay Area and throughout the state are being denied overtime and breaks in violation of California labor laws.

The lawsuit against the Kentucky-based Kindred Healthcare and its subsidiaries -- Professional Healthcare at Home and NP Plus -- alleges that employee caregivers contracted out to assisted living and rehabilitation facilities to provide nonmedical care are working 12- to 24-hour shifts without receiving overtime or breaks for meals and rest. The workers deployed to private residences are receiving a flat-pay wage that breaks down to below minimum wage, the lawsuit alleges.

The lead plaintiffs, Emma Delores Hawkins, of San Pablo, and Ginger Rogers, of Sacramento, are both veteran caregivers who work 12-hour shifts five to seven days a week in private residences and facilities in Alameda County.

"You might get a chance to go to the bathroom, but getting fresh air or taking a break -- it's not happening. Not a lunch break, not a 15-minute break, nothing," Rogers said. "It's been going on for quite some time. Unfortunately, a lot of people have not been speaking up. I decided to speak up. I'm going for some change in the health care profession."

Susan Moss, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Kindred Healthcare, said Wednesday that the company is unable to comment at this time because it had not been served with the lawsuit and therefore have not had the opportunity to review the allegations.

The lawsuit is being brought by the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, Women's Employment Rights Clinic of Golden Gate University School of Law and the Oakland-based law firm Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson on behalf of caregivers who have worked for the defendants in the last four years.

Some 300 caregivers work for the plaintiffs in California in private homes and in facilities at any given time, the law firm says, but the lawsuit has implications for the estimated 3.5 million such caregivers in the United States.

"We hope the lawsuit will set an industry standard requiring compliance with laws that govern this kind of work," said Hina Shah, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.