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Enforcement of New Labor Protections for Home Care Workers Delayed

October 7, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced October 7 that it will delay enforcement of new minimum wage and overtime protections for home care aides through June 2015. From July through December 2015, DOL will use its “prosecutorial discretion” to enforce the law on a case by case basis, allowing for exceptions under special circumstances.

The new rule, which expands the Fair Labor Standards Act to cover home care workers for the first time, is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2015. According to DOL, that implementation date has not changed. Rather, the department intends to use the delay to continue to work with states to ensure that Medicaid programs understand their obligations, make any necessary adjustments to their programs and budgets, and come into full compliance within the coming year.

In response to DOL’s announcement, PHI President Jodi Sturgeon expressed disappointment:

The decision to delay means that 2 million home care workers (pdf) — largely low-income women, and disproportionately women of color — will have to wait as long as another 12 months to receive even the most basic labor protections, guarantees that most other American workers take for granted. Home care workers — the backbone of the nation’s long-term care system — deserve better. 

Home care jobs (pdf) are among the nation’s fastest-growing jobs — and the most poorly paid. Wages average about $9.50 per hour; one in five home care workers live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level; and more than half rely on public assistance like Medicaid and food stamps to make ends meet. Many home care workers remain uninsured, because they cannot afford employer-sponsored coverage or live in states that have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility.

Additional Media Coverage

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other national media outlets covered the DOL’s decision to delay enforcement. Read more

In the months leading up to the DOL decision, the agency heard from advocates on both sides of the issue. Associations representing state Medicaid directors and the home care industry, as well as some advocates for people with disabilities, lobbied hard to move back the implementation date. Labor organizations, women’s groups, civil-rights organizations, and some consumer groups called on the Obama administration to move forward with the rule as scheduled. Fifty groups signed a letter to DOL (pdf) in support of the planned January 2015 implementation date.

“PHI plans to continue to work with states to ensure a timely and smooth transition for consumers and workers,” said Sturgeon, following today’s announcement. “We expect that states such as California and New York that have prepared to implement the new rule on January 1 will move forward as planned. Home care workers have waited long enough for these basic labor protections.”

— by Karen Kahn, PHI Director of Communications 

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