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Home Care Rule Draws Attention During Congressional Hearing

December 10, 2015

A recent federal rule change extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers was discussed at a December 9 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

During her testimony and subsequent questioning by members of Congress, National Employment Law Project President Christine Owens higlighted the rule change, saying that home care work is a “vital job” requiring patience, compassion, and skill.

Asked about the rule change by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Owens explained that, for decades, home care workers were specifically exempted from those basic wage protections. Meanwhile, direct-care workers in nursing homes were entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. Owens pointed out that this policy didn’t make sense considering that elders prefer increasingly to receive care in their own home.

“That’s just wrong,” Owens said. “The Labor Department‘s extension of these protections [to home care workers] — which the D.C. Circuit has upheld — is not only fully consistent with the department’s statutory authority, it is good public policy that we all ought to applaud.”

Pocan said he had recently spent a day shadowing a home care worker in Madison, and was impressed by how physically strenuous the job was, and by how little home care workers are paid. The worker he shadowed, a 23-year veteran of the profession, earned just $11.50 an hour, he said.

“Look at the work involved, and all too often we find these folks aren’t getting the proper pay, the proper overtime,” Pocan said.

Later in the hearing, subcommittee chairman Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) expressed concern that extending minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers creates an onerous burden on home care providers.

— by Matthew Ozga 

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