Labor Department to Move Forward on Implementing Minimum Wage & Overtime Protections for Home Care Workers

New rule will come into effect on Jan 1st but DOL will suspend its enforcement for 6 months

Washington, DC—The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that it will uphold its January 1, 2015 timeline for extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, despite calls for a delay in implementation, but it will temporarily delay its enforcement of the new rule.

In its announcement, the DOL stated that it will suspend its enforcement of the rule for six months, through June 2015, and for the subsequent six months will exercise prosecutorial discretion in enforcing the new requirements. The DOL enforcement delay will give states and private employers ample additional time to assess their current pay practices and make necessary adjustments to ensure that workers are paid for all hours worked and any overtime hours after 40 hours in a week.

Leading workers’ rights, civil rights, and women’s groups and unions had urged Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to reject opponents’ requests for delay of the long-awaited reforms, which narrow a loophole—known as the companionship exemption—that has shut out home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections for the last 40 years.

“In opting not to delay the effective date of the new rule, Secretary Perez and the Labor Department are signaling that home care workers have waited long enough for the fundamental right to a fair wage, and they will no longer be denied,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “The six-month enforcement suspension gives employers extra time to get their act together, but they should be under no illusions about their responsibility to follow through on these important reforms.”

Although some states and organizations pushed to delay the rule, California and New York, which run the nation’s two largest Medicaid home care programs, accounting for 65 percent of the nation’s home care workforce, took the necessary steps to implement the rules change by the deadline. Other states have also begun tracking workers’ weekly hours and are gearing up to pay workers for all of their work time, as the rules change requires.

The nation’s two million home care workers provide critical in-home supports to seniors and people with disabilities and comprise the two fastest-growing occupations in the nation. Yet wages are shamefully low. One in five home care workers lives below the poverty line, and more than one in two rely on some form of public assistance to make ends meet, according to PHI, an advocacy group for the direct care workforce.

Low wages and poor working conditions have contributed to alarmingly high turnover and burnout, jeopardizing care for society’s most vulnerable members and straining the home care system just as more and more Americans come to rely on its services. The extension of baseline wage protections will bring a greater degree of stability to the industry, especially in the 29 states that have not offered state-level wage protections.

“We and our allies are committed to working with all stakeholders to facilitate implementation and to ensure that DOL’s enforcement delay doesn’t become a tool to stymie reform,” said Owens. “This will complement the Labor Department’s consistent work with states, home care providers, and others to address implementation questions and ensure a smooth transition to fair wages for these workers.”

Contact:
Emma Stieglitz
emmas@berlinrosen.com
(646) 200-5307

 


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