Bypassing Congress, President Barack Obama proposed legislation that would guarantee overtime and minimum wage protections for home care workers. The New York Times reports that for 37 years, home care workers have not been included in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) because they were grouped in the same “companion” exemption that includes babysitters. The FLSA sets federal standards for overtime, minimum wage, and recordkeeping. According to the White House, 92% of home care workers are women, nearly 30% are African-American and around 12% are Hispanic. Additionally, almost 40% of home care workers rely on public benefits like food stamps and Medicaid.
There are reportedly nearly 2 million home care workers in the United States. This group of workers tends to the elderly and sick that would rather remain in their own homes than move 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.
The US Department of Labor has moved forward with the law after being given the responsibility following a Supreme Court case in 2007. Now that the President has backed the legislation, a public comment period will occur before it is put into law. In reports, Obama added, "I can tell you firsthand that these men and women, they work their tails off, and they don't complain. They deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve to be paid fairly for a service that many older Americans couldn't live without."
Employers, especially those which employ vulnerable and low-wage workers, often do not follow 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 unpaid overtime and underpayment for many employees. 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 an experienced overtime lawyer to help ensure that your rights as a worker are protected.