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Minnesota PCAs Caring for Relatives Must Earn Equal Wages, Court Rules

January 3, 2013

A Minnesota state law that mandated lower wages for personal care aides (PCAs) who provide care for relatives was ruled unconstitutional by the state appeals court on December 17.

The law in question, which was passed by the state legislature in 2011, required that PCAs caring for an immediate relative — such as a parent, an adult child, or a grandparent — earn 20 percent less than other PCAs.

The measure was adopted in an attempt to help reduce the state’s budget gap.

The law took effect on October 1, 2011, but was suspended two weeks later, after being challenged in court by a coalition of care recipients and home health companies that employ PCAs.

An Unfair Discrepancy

The plaintiffs argued that it is wrong to pay PCAs less for caring for their relatives, since they are doing exactly the same job as those who care for friends or strangers.

Attorney David Bradley Olsen, who represented many of the agencies and care recipients challenging the law, told Minnesota Public Radio that PCAs who care for relatives “have the same training, they have the same experience, they’re limited to the same number of maximum hours.

“Right down the line, everything is exactly the same until it comes to how much they’re going to be paid,” Olsen said.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the plaintiffs. In its decision, the court found that the pay discrepancy “creates an arbitrary distinction between similarly situated individuals in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Minnesota Constitution.”

The state has 30 days to appeal the court’s decision to the state Supreme Court.

— by Matthew Ozga

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