In a victory for home health care workers, the White House has just announced that these workers will finally be entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections. For 38-years, these workers have been denied the same protections granted to almost all workers in America. The long awaited amendment will take effect January 1, 2015 and will impact some 2 million home care workers, one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. The White House has commented that “such a rule would eliminate a long time injustice for a large pool of workers. These workers tend to work long hours for very little pay.”
Most hourly workers in the U.S. are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Depression-era law that established the federal minimum wage and time-and-a-half for hours worked over 40. But when Congress made changes to the law in 1975, it added the so-called “companionship exemption,” which excluded workers who provide “companionship services for individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves.”
Because of the changes, home health care workers were generally not entitled to overtime and minimum wage. Over the last several decades however, the number of home care workers has grown significantly, with substantial numbers of elderly individuals relying on their care. Home health care workers provide vital services such as bathing, dressing and eating. According to the Labor Department, the occupation is expected to grow by 70 percent between 2010 and 2020, “much faster” than the average for other jobs in the U.S. economy.
Because they have not been protected by the FLSA, employers have not been required to pay minimum wage or overtime. As a result, the median wage for a home health care worker as of 2010 was just slightly over $20,000 a year. Further, many workers put in well over 40 hours in a week, including overnight stays at clients’ homes.
If you have questions about the FLSA or how the new law may affect you, it is a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable Atlanta wage and hour attorney right away. A top Georgia FLSA attorney can walk you through the laws concerning your pay and ensure you are getting all the wages you are entitled to.
The Labor Department posted the final rule on its website stating, “most significantly the Department is revising the definition of “companionship services” to clarify and narrow the duties that fall within the term; in addition third party employers, such as home care agencies, will not be able to claim either of the exemptions. The major effect of this rule is that more domestic service workers will be protected by the FLSA’s minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping provisions.”
A director of The Direct Care Alliance, a worker advocacy group, stated “Home care is one of the fastest growing professions in the United States, but we won’t be able to find enough workers to meet the boom in demand if we don’t start treating them with the respect they deserve…Winning these basic labor protections for home care workers is an important step toward elevating a profession that has been overlooked and underpaid for far too long.”
For more information about this significant new rule or if you have any other questions about your wages, please contact the top Georgia wage and hour lawyers Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for an immediate appointment.