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DOL Tells Governors to Prepare for Implementation of Home Care Wage Rule

March 25, 2015

States must be prepared to comply with a federal rule change that, if implemented, will extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Thomas Perez advised state governors in a March 20 letter (pdf).

Perez writes that states may need to adjust their budgets or programs in order to comply with the rule change, which was issued in its final form in October 2013.

Implementation was scheduled for January 1, 2015, but a federal judge vacated the rule, claiming that only Congress, not the DOL, has the authority to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act‘s companionship exemption, which currently excludes home care workers from basic wage protections.

In his letter, Perez notes that the federal government has begun to appeal the judge’s ruling. The appeal will be fully submitted by May, “after which the court could issue an opinion at any time,” Perez writes.

“Because successfully attending to the important principles of treating both workers and recipients of home care services with dignity requires thoughtful planning, I ask that you take steps now toward implementation to ensure that you will be prepared if the [DOL] prevails in this case,” Perez writes.

“Raising wages will make a meaningful difference in the lives of workers who, despite providing demanding and increasingly skilled services that merit attention and fair pay, often live in poverty,” he continues.

Perez further cites the need to improve home care jobs in order to recruit more workers to the increasingly important home care workforce.

In addition to properly budgeting for the rule change, states must ensure that they do not violate the rights of people with disabilities by establishing “inflexible state caps on the number of hours personal assistants may work,” Perez writes.

For guidance on that matter, Perez directs governors to a December 2014 letter written jointly by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

— by Matthew Ozga

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