U.S. economy

Wage and overtime law to cover home care workers

The New York TimesSeptember 18, 2013 

The Ambulatory Care Transition team at Palmetto Health visit patients like Diana Bradley in their homes after they leave the hospital. Bradley pictured with her niece, on the right, before she lost her leg in 2009, uses a wheelchair and walker to get around.

KIM KIM FOSTER-TOBIN — kkfoster@thestate.com Buy Photo

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was extending minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly 2 million home care workers.

Advocates for low-wage workers have pushed for this change, asserting that home care workers, who care for elderly and disabled Americans, were wrongly classified into the same “companionship services” category as baby sitters – a group that is exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage.

Under the new rule, home care aides, unlike baby sitters, would be protected under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the nation’s main wage and hour law.

In an unusual move, the administration said the new regulation would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015, even though regulations often take effect 60 days after being issued. The delay until 2015 is to give families that use these attendants, as well as state Medicaid programs, time to prepare for the new rule.

Industry experts say most of these workers are already paid at least the minimum wage, but many do not receive a time-and-a-half overtime premium when they work more than 40 hours a week. About 20 states exclude home care workers from their wage and hour laws.

“We think the workers providing this critical work should be receiving the same basic protection and coverage as the vast majority of American workers,” said Laura Fortman, deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. “We’ve seen a lot of turnover in this industry, and we believe that this new rule will stabilize the work force.”

The nation’s home care workers usually earn $8.50-$12 an hour, according to industry officials. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour.

According to the Obama administration, almost 40 percent of aides receive government benefits like food stamps and Medicaid. Ninety-two percent of these workers are female, almost 30 percent are black and 12 percent are Hispanic.

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