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Obama and DOL Seek to Extend Federal Wage and Hour Laws to Home Health Care Workers

December 26, 2011

In wage and hour news from last week that our Vincent Howard, our Riverside labor and employment attorney has been following, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a plan to provide minimum wage and overtime law protections to health care workers --a decision that would increase the standard of living for around two million of these domestic employees, but could also increase the costs for the disabled and elderly.

Home health care workers have reportedly been exempt from federal wage and hour laws since 1974, when the workers were considered only as elderly companions, and placed in the same employment category as local baby sitters. But as the amount of full-time home health care workers rapidly climbed, so did the number of seniors who needed help accomplishing an array of daily functions, from bathing to dressing, and taking the correct medication, among other tasks.

President Barack Obama stated recently that it is unacceptable that health care employees are paid less and considered to be in the same category as teenage baby sitters. Obama stated that home heath care workers deserve to be paid fairly, and provide an important service that many elderly people in this country couldn't live without.

According to the Washington Post, the size of the U.S. population over the age of 65 is expected to nearly double in the next twenty years, which will lead to millions of people relying on long-term health care from these domestic workers, who currently receive no federal wage and hour protection in the workplace.

Health care worker unions and advocacy groups claim that around fifty percent of all home care workers are currently near or below the poverty level, and receive food stamps as well as other public benefits like Medicaid. The workers often endure bad working conditions, experience high turnover rates with employment, and often receive low wages--making it a challenge to meet the high demand for elders to receive health care in their own homes, as opposed to being in facilities or institutions.

Health service companies that employ and hire home care workers have reportedly fought the initiative to expand wage and hour laws for the workers, arguing that it would raise the cost of care for the elderly clients who won't be able to afford the services.

Currently there are twenty-nine states that don't require either minimum wage requirements or overtime payment for these home health care workers, over 90 percent of which are women. Of the 90 percent, 30 percent of these women are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic.

The California Association for Health Services at Home stated that the organization is in full support of fair wages for these employees who do important work--as long as there is a careful balance to meet the special needs of elders and people with disabilities who need health care, in a way that it stays affordable for them on a long-term basis.

According to Vincent Howard, managing partner of Howard Law, once the DOL officially proposes the new wage and hour rules aimed to extend the wage and hour laws to cover home health care workers, there will be a 60-day period in which public comments can be made. The federal wage and hour law could take effect for the workers next year.

In Orange County, California contact Vincent Howard and our legal team at Howard Law, PC today.

Obama administration seeks to extend federal wage, hour laws to home health-care workers, The Washington Post, December 15, 2011

Related Web Resources:

California Department of Industrial Relations, (DIR)

U.S. Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division (WHD), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Department of Labor (DOL): Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

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