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U.S. Extends Minimum Wage & Overtime Protections to Home Care Workers
In a move that will benefit nearly two million home care workers in the U.S., the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will extend the minimum wage and weekly overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to home care workers providing in-home support services to persons with disabilities, including aging persons.
Under the new rule, home care workers, who provide “care” for more than 20 percent of the total hours worked for an employer, will be entitled to received the federal minimum wage and overtime for hours over 40 in a week. “Care” includes activities such as dressing, feeding, bathing, meal preparation, and managing finances. Live-in home care workers are exempt from overtime, but must be paid federal minimum wage for all hours worked. “Companions” – those who provide fellowship and protection to an elderly or disabled person or person who requires assistance – remain exempt from these protections.
The Department of Labor first proposed the change in December of 2011, and received more than 26,000 comments. Many commenters underscored the important role of in-home care providers and the need to improve their working conditions. These attendants, often women of color and immigrant women, typically struggle to provide quality care while enduring low wages, long hours, and high rates of occupational injuries.
Additional commenters noted that the right of persons with disabilities to live in the community is fundamental and protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Persons with significant disabilities who use attendant care are among the poorest members of society, and face institutionalization if required to take on even a modest or temporary increase in attendant care costs.
LAS-ELC submitted comments detailing the needs of domestic workers and of persons with disabilities. LAS-ELC endorsed the regulations in principle and also urged additional federal efforts to ensure continued access to attendant care for persons with disabilities.
The new rules are not effective until January 1, 2015. The Department explained that the delay is needed to permit the various parties affected – consumers, families, home care agencies, direct care workers, and local, state and federal Medicaid programs – to adjust to the requirements.