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Regulators Investigate Institute of Medical Education

Complaints by the vocational school's employees have prompted state and federal labor inquiries

Federal and state regulatory agencies are investigating possible labor and education law violations at the Institute of Medical Education, a private vocational school with campuses in San Jose and Oakland.

The institute offers certificate programs in vocational nursing, medical assisting and other health-related fields, and associate degrees in dental hygiene, for fees of up to $40,000.

Officials from the institute did not respond to several requests for comment about the inquiries.

The investigations come after The Bay Citizen reported that students had complained about the quality of the institute's educational programs to state regulators and that the school's nursing and dental hygiene programs could lose their accreditations.

The U.S. Department of Labor is examining possible wage and overtime violations at the institute after receiving multiple complaints. Federal officials are interviewing employees and reviewing two years' worth of payroll and attendance records from the institute, said Deanne Amaden, a department spokeswoman.

“We are looking to make sure that employees get any back wages they are entitled to,” Amaden said. “We want to get in there and make sure that the workers are made whole and the employer complies with federal labor law.”

Amaden would not specify how many complaints had been filed or the nature of the grievances.

The department’s investigation could be finished as early as next month, she said.

California regulators are also looking into possible violations of state labor laws at the school. In recent months, the state's Department of Industrial Relations has received five employee complaints, said Erika Monterroza, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The complaints alleged that the school owed employees more than $9,925 in combined back wages, according to Monterroza. The institute responded to one of the complaints, filed last September, by paying a former employee about $885 in back wages, she said.

The U.S. Department of Education is also examining possible violations of federal education laws at the school, an agency spokesman said. He declined to elaborate further.

State officials wouldn't say if the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education had launched an investigation. Last month, The Bay Citizen reported that the bureau had not fulfilled many of its core oversight responsibilities, like swiftly investigating complaints, monitoring the quality of educational programs and rooting out unlicensed schools.

“Unlike the feds, we cannot and do not discuss whether any of our schools are under investigation,” said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the California Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the bureau.

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