Last December, President Obama announced his intention to make revisions to the
Fair Labor Standards Act, one of the oldest federal labor laws. One of the changes would be to
include home-care employees as workers protected by the Act. Such a change
would be a great benefit to many hard working Americans who have been
excluded from its protections for many years. If covered, home care workers
would be entitled to many of the minimum wage and overtime provisions.
The Department of Labor had an extended comment period on the proposed
rule change, and received nearly 26,000 statements with two-thirds of
them supporting the changes.
Under the proposed rule, the Department of Labor seeks to clarify who would
be an “exempt” companion and who would be considered an employee
that performs services that don’t fall within the new definitions
and are entitled to minimum wage and overtime. This would include work
such as housekeeping, cooking and medically related services.
With a work force of about 2.5 million, two-thirds of whom would be affected
by the proposed rule, home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing
job category in the country, projected to double by 2018. “As women,
immigrants and service workers have become the new face of labor, what
happens to home care matters for the shape of our economy, the fate of
unionism and the establishment of a decent standard of living for all,”
New York Times home health care article.
However, the new rules have met opposition with many republicans trying
to expand the definition of what actions would be included under the “companionship
exemption” and not qualify for minimum wage or overtime. By classifying
workers as “companions” hard workers are denied the compensation
and wages they are entitled to. As stated in a recent New York Times Op-Ed,
“The “elder companion exemption” has allowed staffing
agencies to avoid paying overtime. “It has treated women who labored
to support their families as if they were teenagers picking up some spending
money. Conveniently, this exemption came just as home care became a growth
industry, aided by changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other government
President Obama’s proposal explicitly recognizes that housekeeping
is bound up with caregiving in the home. Companionship emerges as a benefit
from the human relationships essential to the job, but it isn’t
the major task, as the current rule implies. Establishing the legitimacy
of care as productive, necessary labor – a real job – would
recognize the realities of both our aging society and our service economy.
It would also begin the long-overdue work of updating labor standards
for the workplaces of a new century.
As Georgia wage and hour lawyers dedicated to ensuring workers receive
the wages they are entitled to, we will be closely following this proposed rule.
For more information or if you believe you have been denied all the compensation
you are entitled to, please contact the top
Atlanta wage and hour attorneys The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for an immediate consultation.