White House Proposed Rule for Overtime and Minimum Wage Protections for Home Care Workers

March 27, 2012 by Jim Higgins

The Fair Labor Standards act protects the overtime and minimum wage rights of most employees unfortunately, however, in some positions workers are not given these rights or protections. One common but controversial exemption is the home health worker. However, the current administration recently took aim at the Labor Department interpretation that was upheld in a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that widened the application of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) companionship exemption.

The proposed rule, announced by President Obama and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, would ensure that home care workers receive minimum wage and overtime.

A White House release noted that “of the roughly 2 million workers who will be affected by this rule, more than 92 percent are women, nearly 50 percent are minorities and nearly 40 percent rely on public benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, home health care aides earn about $21,000 a year and many lack health insurance. That is unacceptable.”

“On behalf of the 2.3 million home care and personal assistance workers who are excluded from the basic federal wage and overtime protections afforded to most workers in this nation —and Evelyn Coke, who was denied overtime pay and took her case all the way to the Supreme Court — Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI) commends Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis for proposing revised regulations to the companionship exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We wish Ms. Coke had lived to see this day,” said Steven Dawson, PHI’s president.

“Narrowing the companionship exemption is both fair and smart,” Dawson added. “The proposed revisions are a long overdue acknowledgment that home care workers, who provide long-term care and support for our nation’s elders and people living with disabilities, play a crucial role in supporting America’s families and businesses, so that family caregivers can go to work with the peace of mind of knowing that their loved ones are getting the care they need in the setting of their choice, their homes.The White House has announced a proposed rule to mend the Supreme Court’s decision in Coke by extending minimum wage and overtime protectionsto home health care workers who are employed by third party agencies. Before this decision, Coke, impacted hard working and low paid employees all across the country. Many home healthcare workers, who provide care for the elderly and disabled, were extremely underpaid for the work that they do because of a Fair Labor Standards Act exemption and Coke made this worse by extending this exemption to third party agencies. Coke was a harsh precedent because it crushed the Fair Labor Standards Act narrow construction of the exemption rule and it made a sub-class of low wage employees who could have suffered from wage abuse by third party agencies. The White House’s proposal to mend Coke’s decision is a great decision for these employees and other employees in similar situations all across the country.

If you have an employment law question feel free to contact one of our Tennessee Overtime Lawyers today.