Debate has intensified over the Obama administration’s proposed changes to labor laws for the home care industry. As public comments are due by March 12th, many employers and organizations are coming forward to claim that the changes would disrupt the industry, result in lower care for the elderly, and actually hurt the workers instead of help them. Currently, home care workers are grouped in the same “companion” exemption that includes babysitters. Under this exemption, they are not entitled to Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) standards for overtime, minimum wage, and recordkeeping. According to estimates, almost 40% of home care workers rely on public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.
According to The Hill, a report by the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) debunked the claims of the IFA and other detractors of the proposed changes, saying that "Critics of the proposed rule claim that home care providers can't absorb the added financial burden of overtime and travel time pay for their aides, arguing that home care workers should remain exempted from basic labor protections. But all indications are that the home care industry is thriving and can afford the cost of these basic workforce protections. The industry's robust financial status stands in sharp contrast to the fact that half of home care workers earn so little that they must rely on public benefits."
Reports estimate that there are nearly 2 million home care workers in the United States. This industry tends to the elderly and sick that choose to remain in their own homes instead of moving to a retirement home. While nursing homes can cost exorbitant amounts of money, the average home care aid only makes between $8.50 and $12 per hour, according to the New York Times. Though the FLSA only guarantees workers a minimum of $7.25 per hour, advocates say that the financial benefits will be threefold. First, the pay scale would rise once those making less than minimum wage were properly compensated. Second, it would benefit workers with more than one client because they would be paid for travel time between patients. Third and finally, it would guarantee time-and-a-half pay for hours worked over 40 hours per week, which most home care workers do not currently receive.
Vulnerable and low-wage workers are often taken advantage of by employers who violate federal and state labor laws. Workers, as well as some employers, frequently do not understand the intricacies of overtime and minimum wage laws, leading to widespread unpaid overtime and underpayment. Workers that are unfairly compensated for their job may be entitled to receive back pay for the wages that were incorrectly withheld. If you or a loved one may be owed back pay by an employer, contact a dedicated overtime attorney to pursue legal recourse and ensure that your rights and dignity as a worker are protected.