White House Proposes Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections for Home Care Aides

December 15, 2011

In a noon briefing at the White House, President Obama announced on December 15 that he intends to guarantee nearly 2 million home care workers basic minimum wage and overtime protections.

With a dozen home care aides and employers surrounding him, Obama reiterated his message that everyone in America "deserves a fair shake and a fair shot."

Referring to the day during his 2008 campaign, when he "walked in the shoes" of home care aide Pauline Beck, Obama noted the critical importance of home care to frail elders and people with disabilities and the hard work it takes to get up at 5 a.m., spend the day caring for someone in need, and return home to care for one's family.

Referring to the nation's home care workforce, he said "We're going to do what is fair and what is right."

With President Obama at the White House was PHI Board member Karen Kulp. Kulp is president/CEO of the Philadelphia-based Home Care Associates (HCA) and was invited to the White House along with an HCA home care aide, Iterra Blackshirre.

Pennsylvania is one of 16 states that already guarantees minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers.

"Giving home care workers the same basic federal labor protections that most workers enjoy is both the right thing to do and cost-effective," Kulp said. "Recruiting and retaining home care workers has been a problem that has plagued the industry. Fair pay for home care workers improves the quality of the job and as a result improves care for our clients."

The Proposed Rule

The administration plans to guarantee minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers through a change to the regulations implementing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Right before the President's announcement, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) posted its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (pdf), which would narrow the interpretation of the current "companionship exemption" that has long excluded home care workers from wage and hour protections.

The new rule would limit the companionship exemption to workers who provide only "fellowship and protection." All home care workers employed by third party employers would be covered by FLSA.

PHI President Steven Dawson responded to the proposed change, noting that "this Administration is sending a strong signal that it recognizes that 'care work' is not casual labor but instead one of the fastest-growing occupations in the nation."

Next Steps

The proposed rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on December 19. The 60-day public comment period will begin on that date.

"We will be encouraging our constituents to send comments to the Department of Labor," said Steve Edelstein, PHI national policy director. "It is essential that DOL hear from those affected by this change."

Following the comment period, DOL will review the comments and possibly revise the rule in response. DOL would then issue a final rule, most likely in spring 2012.

To stay informed and learn how to submit comments in the coming weeks, join the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay.

To learn more about the home care workforce, go to: www.phinational.org/homecarefacts.

-- by Karen Kahn

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