The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has ruled that employers must pay minimum wage and overtime to home care workers who provide critical care to older adults and people with disabilities. The rule had been under review at the White House since Jan. 15, 2013, even though an executive order limits White House review to 90 days with a single 30-day extension.
The changes made last week by the Obama removed an exemption to federal wage laws that had been in place since 1974. The rules cover home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants who provide care to the elderly and people with injuries, illnesses and disabilities.
Exempt from the new rules: workers who mainly visit the elderly to provide company or engage in hobbies and are employed directly by the person or family receiving services.
Labor unions and worker advocacy groups have been seeking the change for years, arguing that nearly half of caregivers live at or below the poverty level.
The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, which is comprised of consumer, labor, scientific, research, good government, faith, community, health, environmental, and public interest groups, said the rule advanced vital public protections.
“Home care workers provide crucial in-home care and support for our elderly or disabled family members, friends and neighbors; yet these workers have struggled to support their own families,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “These reforms are a critical step towards improving wages in one of our country’s fastest-growing occupations. We applaud the Obama administration for keeping its promise to these workers.”
“Home care workers have been treated unfairly because of a technicality, and now finally the Labor Department is taking action to fix the problem,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen and CSS co-chair. “The administration has a series of delayed rules in its hands and it needs to be much more aggressive in finalizing these vital protections.”
The home health care industry predicted that the rule change would increases costs for clients or results in employees’ hours being cut.