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DOL Urged to Issue Final Rule on Fair Pay for Home Care Workers on Five-Year Anniversary of Supreme Court Decision on Coke Case

June 11, 2012

Rulemaking Delay Could Undermine Administration's Efforts to Ensure Fair Pay for Nation's Fastest-Growing Workforce

  Bronx, NY — On the five-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke, PHI (the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute) calls on the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to move quickly to release its final regulation providing federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation's 2.5 million home care workers. Extending these basic labor protections to workers who care for frail elders and people with disabilities — as did the late Evelyn Coke — is essential to the well-being of millions of Americans.

On December 15, 2011, President Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Labor would finally guarantee minimum wage and overtime protections to millions of home care workers who care for Americans, young and old, who need assistance to remain independent and part of their communities. "With a need for 3 million workers to provide these services by 2020, we cannot rely on an undervalued, contingent workforce. Quality care demands quality jobs, beginning with a recognition that care work is 'real' work. That means that it is time for home care workers to be treated like most other American workers and provided basic labor protections under Fair Labor Standards Act," says PHI President-Elect Jodi Sturgeon.

Evelyn Coke, a Long Island home care worker, sued her employer for back pay when she discovered that, though she often worked long hours in her clients' homes, she had never received overtime pay. Her case went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, which ruled on June 11, 2007, that because of the exemption of "companions to the elderly" under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Coke's employer had done nothing illegal. However, the Court also ruled that the U.S. Department of Labor could reinterpret the "companionship exemption" to expand wage and hour protections to home care aides.

After releasing the proposed regulation, the U.S. Department of Labor received over 26,000 public comments related to the companionship rule, with two-thirds in favor of the proposed changes. The comment period closed on March 21, 2012. In the meantime, home care workers continue to struggle with poverty wages that leave 50 percent relying on public benefits to support their families.

"As national elections draw near, we are reminded that efforts to narrow the companionship exemption under President Clinton failed when the George W. Bush Administration did not proceed with finalizing the rule. Home care workers have waited 12 years to once again get onto the Department of Labor's agenda. They can't afford to wait any longer," Sturgeon says.

"While Evelyn Coke will never see the day when home care workers are treated under the law like most workers in the nation, millions of home care workers will benefit from her courageous fight for fair pay when a revised regulation finally is enacted. The time has come to come to finish what Ms. Coke started," Sturgeon says.

Visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay for resources on the home care industry and the impact of the companionship exemption on home care workers and their clients.

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PHI, the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (www.phinational.org), works to transform eldercare and disability services, fostering dignity, respect, and independence -– for all who receive care, and all who provide it. The nation's leading authority on the direct-care workforce, PHI promotes quality direct-care jobs as the foundation for quality care.

Deane Beebe

PHI Media Relations Director

718-928-2033; 646-285-1039 (cell)

DBeebe@phinational.org

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