PRESS STATEMENT by PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon: Six Years After U.S. Supreme Court Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke Decision, Home Care Workers Still Excluded from Federal Labor Protections
Bronx, NY — Today, the six-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke decision, PHI is urging President Obama to keep his promise to home care workers and complete the regulatory process to revise the "companionship exemption" to extend home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
On January 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor sent the White House Office of Management and Budget a "draft final rule" to end the exclusion of home care workers from federal wage protections, but a final rule has yet to be issued. Instead, the nation's 2.5 million home care workers — who make it possible for elders and individuals living with disabilities to receive long-term services and supports in their homes and communities — are still considered under federal law to be "companions" or mere "babysitters" to the "elderly and infirm."
Eighteen months have passed since December 11, 2011, when President Obama — with home care workers, providers, consumers, and advocates by his side — pledged to revise the companionship exemption and end the nearly 40-year injustice of the exclusion of home care workers from basic federal labor protections.
In the June 11, 2007, Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the late Evelyn Coke, a home care worker on Long Island, was not entitled to back pay because of the companionship exemption under FLSA. 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. Ms. Coke had 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.
Evelyn Coke, who died four years ago, will never see this decades-old injustice undone. However, the nation's home care workers — primarily women, half of whom have incomes low enough to qualify for public assistance like food stamps and Medicaid — are counting on the President to show them the dignity and respect they deserve by keeping his promise and finishing the regulatory job his administration started.
Ending the exclusion of home care workers from federal labor protections is not only the right thing to do, it is a critical step toward ensuring that our nation can meet the projected demand for 3 million home care workers by 2020 to provide quality care to elders and people with disabilities in home and community-based settings.
For more information on the companionship exemption, visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay. State-by-state data on home care workers' wages and benefits, as well as other information, is available on the PHI State Data Center.
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PHI, the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, 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, firstname.lastname@example.org, (646) 285-1039