Home Care Workers Demand Minimum Wage, Overtime Protections

By Elise Viebeck, The Hill

Home care workers are demanding final rules from the Obama administration that would give them federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), which represents home health aides, certified nurse aides and personal care attendants, called on President Obama to extend the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to its members.

The group pointed to Obama’s promise in December 2011 to ensure home health jobs offer the same wage-and-hour standards as other healthcare posts.

“Eighteen months have passed,” said PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon in a statement. “The nation’s home care workers — primary women, half of whom have incomes low enough to qualify for public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid — are counting on the president to show them the dignity and the respect they deserve.”

Home health aides are currently not entitled to federal minimum wage and overtime protections because the Fair Labor Standards Act classifies them as companions to the elderly and disabled.

The Supreme Court affirmed the so-called “companionship exemption” in 2007, but said federal regulators could reshape it at any time via rule-making.

The Obama administration proposed a new rule in 2011, and according to PHI, the Labor Department sent a draft final rule to the White House Budget Office in January.

That office is now in the process of finalizing the rule, which is controversial among the elderly and disabled.

Advocates for these groups have expressed concerns that applying federal labor standards to home health jobs will increase costs and lead families to institutionalize their loved ones.

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