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DOL Secretary Perez Holds “Listening Sessions” on the Companionship Exemption

August 22, 2013

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez held four “listening sessions” on August 19 on the companionship exemption, the regulation that excludes home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The following stakeholders were invited to meet with Secretary Perez to voice their support — or opposition — to extending fair pay to home care workers:

  • Home care industry
  • State Medicaid directors
  • People living with disabilities
  • Worker and consumer advocates

Jessica Lehman, executive director, San Francisco Senior and Disability Action, and founding and leadership team member of Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Association, participated in the session on how a revised rule on the companionship exemption would affect people living with disabilities.

Lehman told the Secretary that her organizations support moving the revised regulation forward in order to extend federal wage protections to home care workers. Dohn Hoyle, executive director of The Arc Michigan also expressed his organization’s support for fair pay for home care workers.

PHI Government Affairs Director Carol Regan attended the worker and consumer advocates’ listening session. Regan, as well as home care workers affiliated with National Domestic Workers Alliance, and representatives from the National Employment Law Project, National Council of La Raza, Direct Care Alliance, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, National Partnership for Women & Families, Jobs with Justice, and these unions — AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME — told the Secretary of the urgent need to revise the rule in order to build the quality home care workforce that our nation needs to meet the increasing demand for the services and supports it provides.

Representatives from the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs also attended the sessions.

The decades-old companionship regulation has been undergoing a lengthy process toward revision since December 15, 2011, when President Obama promised home care workers that his Administration would right this wrong.

— by Deane Beebe

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