One year ago, President Obama announced new regulations proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) that would grant minimum wage and overtime pay to home care workers, a workforce that has been unfairly denied these basic protections for decades. In his remarks last December, he described a day he spent with Pauline Beck, a home care worker from Oakland, California:
“When we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to go to work taking care of an 86-year-old amputee named ‘Mr. John.’ And each day, she’d dress Mr. John and help him into his wheelchair. She’d make him breakfast. She’d scrub his floors. She’d clean his bathroom. She was his connection to the outside world. And when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grandnephew and two foster children who didn’t have families of their own. Heroic work, and hard work. That’s what Pauline was all about.”
Pauline’s story is illustrative. Like Pauline, most home care workers are women. They take on the vitally important work of caring for our neighbors and family members who need help to stay in their homes – and like Pauline, many home care workers also have their own families to support. But for decades, their difficult and demanding jobs have come without the basic protections of the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Read more »
In case you (like many of us here at NWLC) have been too busy dealing with power outages and oppressive heat to keep up with the New York Times over the past few days, I wanted to flag for you a great op-ed from Sunday’s paper. In it, Professors Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein make a concise and compelling case for granting long overdue Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections – minimum wage and overtime premium pay – to home care workers.
You might recall that President Obama has also called for this policy change, and late last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a new rule that would extend FLSA protections to home care workers. Specifically, the proposed regulations would exclude these workers from the FLSA’s exemption for “companionship services.” To date, this exemption – which was intended to exempt casual caregivers, like babysitters, from FLSA requirements when the statute was expanded to cover domestic service workers in 1974 – has been inappropriately applied to the professional workers who provide the intensive care necessary for many elderly and ill adults to remain in their homes. As Boris and Klein observe, the home care workforce has exploded since the 1970s as the U.S. population has aged, and the “existing exemption mainly serves home-care franchises, an $84 billion industry that is one of the most profitable in the United States….[It] has allowed staffing agencies to avoid paying overtime [and] treated women who labored to support their families as if they were teenagers picking up some spending money.” Read more »
If you follow our blog, you know that the Department of Labor has proposed a rule that would extend basic labor protections – minimum wage and overtime protection – to home care workers who have been excluded under an exemption for “companionship services.” The Fair Labor Standards Act was amended in 1974 to include domestic service workers, but millions of home care workers never got to enjoy the basic protections included in that law. Instead, these professional workers (about 90 percent of whom are women) have been put in the same category as teenaged babysitters or neighbors who stop by to check in on an elderly person. As a result, the home care industry has a very high turnover rate – estimated to range from 44 to 65 percent each year – which diminishes quality and continuity of care for clients and costs the industry an estimated $2 billion annually. It has been almost 40 years since other domestic service workers gained wage and hour protections. Home care workers shouldn’t have to wait anymore!
Unfortunately, many companies in the over-80-billion-dollar home care industry are working hard to prevent home care workers from receiving basic labor protections. The industry has found an ally in some Members of Congress who petitioned the Department of Labor to extend the public comment period for the proposed rule – even though the Department announced almost 2 years ago that it was looking into the issue and over 5000 comments had already been received. The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections is going to hold a hearing on this issue on March 7. Although the official witness list hasn’t been announced, we anticipate that the industry will be well represented and we know what their witnesses are likely to say: that the rule would be too expensive and that it would hurt, not help, home care workers. Let me take a moment to debunk those myths right now. Read more »
The vast majority of home care workers—over 90 percent—are women, disproportionately women of color. They provide a lifeline for the elderly and people with disabilities. Their jobs are emotionally and physically demanding, whether they are helping a client to bathe and dress, encouraging a client to take appropriate food, medicine, and exercise, or assisting a client who may use a walker, wheelchair, or portable oxygen equipment to get to the grocery store or a doctor’s appointment. They allow frail elders and people with disabilities to stay in their homes for as long as possible by giving them the help that they need and provide families peace of mind in knowing that their loved ones are being cared for. Many home care workers are the primary breadwinners for their families and struggle to survive on median annual wages of less than $21,000 for full-time work – less than the Federal Poverty Guideline for a family of four. Read more »
Today the Obama Administration proposed new regulations that would provide federal minimum wage and overtime protections to nearly two million low-wage home-care workers.
Who are these workers? They are nearly all women and disproportionately women of color. They provide a lifeline for the elderly and disabled, yet their stressful and physically demanding jobs come without the basic protections of the federal minimum wage and overtime law. The typical home health care worker employed on a full-time, full-year basis earns just $21,000 a year.