The Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal law that governs minimum wage and overtime, has long exempted home health care workers for its requirements. Thus, the people who take care of the elderly and the sick are often not compensated at minimum wage or given overtime.
On Friday, President Obama took the first steps in changing this. From the White House press release:
The White House today will announce new rules proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor that would provide minimum wage and overtime protections for nearly two million workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirmed. Many of these workers provide critical in-home health care services such as tube feeding, wound care, or assistance with physical therapy, and deserve the protections provided under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of executive actions the Obama Administration is taking to strengthen the economy and move the country forward because we can’t wait for Congress to act.
“The nearly 2 million in-home care workers across the country should not have to wait a moment longer for a fair wage. They work hard and play by the rules and they should see that work and responsibility rewarded. Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without,” said President Obama.
“The care provided by in-home workers is crucial to the quality of life for many families,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The vast majority of these workers are women, many of whom serve as the primary breadwinner for their families. This proposed regulation would ensure that their work is properly classified so they receive appropriate compensation and that employers who have been treating these workers fairly are no longer at a competitive disadvantage. “
The Department of Labor hopes to redefine the companionship exemption. One of the biggest proposed changes is to no longer allow third-party agencies to claim the exemption. For example, if a staffing agency employs the worker rather than the individual receiving the care, the exemption will no longer apply.