Labor Department to Increase Wage, Overtime Protections (9/19)

 

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The U.S. Department of Labor has announced it will extend the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections. Below is a press release from the Labor Department regarding that action and a statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reacting to the news. 

 

Minimum wage, overtime protections extended to direct care workers by US Labor Department

Nearly two million home health and personal care workers to benefit

WASHINGTON — Fulfilling a promise by President Obama to ensure that direct care workers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule today extending the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation's workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. This change will result in nearly two million direct care workers — such as home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants — receiving the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers. It will also help guarantee that those who rely on the assistance of direct care workers have access to consistent and high-quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

"Many American families rely on the vital services provided by direct care workers," said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Because of their hard work, countless Americans are able to live independently, go to work and participate more fully in their communities. Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home."

"Direct care workers play a critical role in ensuring access to high-quality home care that many people need in order to remain healthy and independent in their communities, and they should be compensated fairly for this important work," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. "We will continue to engage with consumers, states, advocates and home care providers in the implementation of this rule to help people with disabilities, older adults and their families receive quality, person-centered services."

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 and the fact that direct care workers increasingly receive skills training and perform work previously done by trained nurses, direct care workers remain among the lowest paid in the service industry. There are an estimated 1.9 million direct care workers in the U.S., with nearly all currently employed by home care agencies. Approximately 90 percent of direct care workers are women, and nearly 50 percent are minorities.

Today's announcement extends minimum wage and overtime protections to all direct care workers employed by home care agencies and other third parties. Fifteen states already extend state minimum wage and overtime protections to direct care workers, and an additional six states and the District of Columbia mandate state minimum wage protections.

"The department carefully considered the comments received from individuals who receive home care, workers, third-party employers and administrators of state programs that support home care," said Laura Fortman, the principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, the agency that administers and enforces the FLSA. "In response, the final rule provides increased flexibility, and gives programs sufficient time to make any needed adjustments. Together these changes will allow the rule to better meet consumers' needs while better protecting direct care workers."

The final rule also clarifies that direct care workers who perform medically-related services for which training is typically a prerequisite are not companionship workers and therefore are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime. And, in accordance with Congress' initial intent, individual workers who are employed only by the person receiving services or that person's family or household and engaged primarily in fellowship and protection (providing company, visiting or engaging in hobbies) and care incidental to such activities, will still be considered exempt from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime protections.

The rule will be effective Jan. 1, 2015. The Department of Labor has created a new web portal with interactive web tools, fact sheets and other materials to help families, other employers and workers understand the new requirements. These, along with information about upcoming webinars on the rule, are available at www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/.

 

Follow is a statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

 

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

On New Rule Ensuring Wage Standards to Home Care Workers

September 17, 2013

 

The rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Labor finally recognizes the value of the work done by millions of people who take care of our aging parents as well as our sisters, brothers and children with disabilities.  Congress intended that these hard working individuals, whose labor is often physically and emotionally demanding, have the protection of our nation’s most basic labor standards – the right to be paid a minimum wage and receive more for working overtime.  Yet since 1975, the Labor Department has allowed an entire, fast-growing industry to operate outside the law.  Today, with the active support of a wide array of advocates, the Obama administration has corrected this historic injustice.

 

The AFL-CIO applauds the homecare workers whose courage made this day possible—workers like Evelyn Coke, a Jamaican immigrant and single mother who took care of the elderly, sick and dying for years, bathing them, dressing them and feeding them, sometimes working three consecutive 24-hour shifts without overtime pay.  Ms. Coke challenged this injustice, taking her case to the United States Supreme Court, resulting in the decision that prompted today’s rule.

 

Today’s action will not only benefit the largely female, minority and low-wage workers who provide these essential services, it will help to ensure an adequate supply of homecare workers as demand grows, reduce turnover, and improve quality, permitting more Americans who wish to stay in their own homes as they grow old or experience disability to do so.     

 

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