Yesterday, the Department of Labor announced that it will extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, the majority of whom are women and people of color. Almost two million home care workers - such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants - will now be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act when the regulations go into effect on January 1, 2015.
According to the Department of Labor, "the home care industry has grown dramatically over the last several decades as more Americans choose to receive long-term care at home instead of in nursing homes or other facilities." Despite this growth, home care workers are still the lowest paid in the service industry. Only 15 states provide both minimum wage and overtime protections.
"Today, the Department of Labor took an important step towards stabilizing one of America's fastest-growing workforces, and one made up predominantly of women, women of colors, and immigrants," said Ai-jen Poo, Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Co-Director of the Caring Across Generations campaign. "This change is a long overdue show of respect for women in the workplace and for the important work of supporting seniors and people with disabilities." About 90 percent of home care workers are women, and half are minorities.
These jobs were previously considered "companionship services," which are exempt from minimum wage and overtime protections. Under the new rule, the companionship exemption will no longer apply to workers who receive training to perform medically-related services while caring for the elderly and people with illness, injuries, and disabilities. However, not all workers will be protected - only those employed by home care agencies and other third parties. Workers who are employed directly by the person receiving services, or by that person's family, will still be exempt from protections.
Media Resources: Los Angeles Times 9/17/2013; US Department of Labor; National Domestic Workers Alliance 9/17/2013