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Comment Period Commences for DOL Proposal to Revise the “Companionship Exemption”

January 5, 2012

On December 27, just days after President Obama announced the U.S. Department of Labor‘s (DOL) proposed regulation to revise the “companionship exemption,” the 60-day public comment period was launched.

All stakeholders, including employers, workers, and consumers, are encouraged to weigh in on the proposed regulation before February 27. For more information, visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay for Home Care Workers.

The DOL’s proposed rule would narrow the “companionship exemption” under the Fair Labor Standards Act by clarifying the services that constitute companionship and by limiting the exemption to workers employed directly by households who provide primarily companionship services.

Home care aides who are employed by third parties such as home care agencies would be entitled to the same basic federal minimum wage and overtime protections afforded to most workers in the nation.

Editorial Boards and AARP Support Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

Several newspaper editorial boards, including those of the New York Times, Des Moines Register, and Chattanooga Times Free Press, have already come out in support of revising the decades-old regulation.

The companionship exemption regulation considers home care workers to be casual babysitters instead of an essential workforce that makes it possible for elders with chronic conditions and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes.

AARP Senior Attorney Stacy Canan and her colleagues also call for giving home care workers basic federal labor protections in “How the Fair Labor Standards Act Fails Home Health Aides and Consumers,” published in the Clearinghouse REVIEW Journal of Poverty Law in the November-December 2011 issue.

Canan and her colleagues write that, “Exemption from FLSA protections has severe negative consequences for home health care employees and consumers.” They conclude by cautioning that “the industry will remain unable to attract sufficient workers to meet exponentially growing demand without higher wages and overtime protections.”

New PHI Fact Sheet

A new PHI fact sheet, Value the Care, No. 2 (pdf), explains how fixing the companionship exemption will improve jobs, stabilize the rapidly growing home care workforce, and help the nation’s economy.

“FLSA protections are a win-win for America, helping millions of workers struggling in today’s economy while also ensuring quality support services to elders and people with disabilities in the years ahead,” the fact sheet states.

Highlights of News Coverage on the Companionship Exemption

To send an e-comment to DOL about the proposed rule to revise the companionship exemption and learn more about the regulation, visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay for Home Care Workers.

— by Deane Beebe

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