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DOL continues to delay FLSAct for home care workers


JULY 2012 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

DOL continues to delay FLSAct for home care workers


REGION, June 30th- The United States Department of Labor (DOL) proposal to extend minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSAct) to home care workers continues to meet resistance from for-profit home care providers companies.

The DOL proposed to revise the “companionship exemption” under the FLSAct. Currently, home care workers are excluded from receiving the federal minimum wage and receiving overtime payments despite the industry being so profitable.

Recently it was the five-year anniversity of the United States Supreme Court decision (Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke) and the DOL has yet to release its final regulation that would provide federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s 2.5 million home care workers.

According to the Bronx, New York headquartered Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), the DOL proposal to extend 2.5 million home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections will strengthen the infrastructure for home and community-based services, assuring access to affordable, quality care.

“The millions of women who provide these services are no different from those who work in similar jobs in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. There is absolutely no justification for continuing to treat these workers as casual companions, exempting them from basic labor protections that most American workers have enjoyed for over 70 years,” stated Deane Beebe PHI Media Relations Director. Home care workers were first excluded from the federal law in 1974.

Ms. Beebe stated providing home care is a thriving $84 billion industry with it being the nation’s fastest growing occupation, expected to grow to over 3 million workers by 2020. “Yet these workers, who are 90 percent female with a median age of 45, continue to be treated in the same fashion as teenage babysitters. Home care, however, is a true vocation, and should be treated as such under the law,” added Ms. Beebe.

Recently the companies that are benefiting from industry released several studies that suggest that the proposed regulations will have a negative impact on businesses, consumers, and workers. However, the PHI stated the findings are “seriously flawed.”

For example, the industry-funded surveys were neither nationally representative nor statistically valid. The surveys emphasized opinion questions that were phrased to lead respondents to answers that align with the opposition to the proposed regulations.

The home care industry has doubled its revenues over the last decade and the for-profit segment is making huge profits but is resisting providing minimum wage or overtime protections.

“On December 15th, 2011, President Obama announced that the United States Department of Labor would finally guarantee minimum wage and overtime protections to millions of home care workers who care for Americans, young and old, who need assistance to remain independent and part of their communities. With a need for 3 million more workers to provide these services by 2020, we cannot rely on the undervalued, contingent workforce. Quality care demands quality jobs, beginning with a recognition that care work is “real” work. That means that it is time for home care workers to be treated like most other American workers and provided basic labor protections under FLSAct,” said PHI President Jodi Sturgeon.

Evelyn Coke, a New York home care worker, sued her employer for back pay when she discovered that, though she often worked long hours in her clients home, she never received overtime pay. Her case went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled on June 11th, 2007, that because of the exemption of “companions to the elderly” under the FLSAct, Ms. Coke’s employer had done nothing illegal but the Court also ruled the DOL could reinterpret the “companionship exemption” to expand wage and hour protections to home care aides.

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