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Massachusetts Establishes Home Care Worker Registry

February 15, 2018

In November 2017, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed a law that requires the state’s Department of Elder Affairs to create a home care worker training registry. All home care agencies that are contracted with the state will soon be required by this law to provide training verification and contact information for the personal care aides they employ. The registry aims to streamline training verification, but it might also violate worker privacy, according to home care associations and advocates.

When trained personal care aides are hired in Massachusetts, they must provide evidence of their training credentials to their new employers. However, when workers lose their training-related paperwork, employers often contact the original training organization to obtain verification. When verification becomes impossible, employers are forced to retrain their new hires. Retraining workers defeats one of the intended benefits of standardized training requirements, which is to streamline training for workers and employers and avoid costly duplication.

The new training registry—which can be accessed by any employer, consumer, or other member of the public to verify worker training—will list the names, employers, and unique identification numbers of personal care aides. The registry will also provide the home addresses of workers to home care agencies, labor unions, and Aging Services Access Points (state-sponsored organizations that support Medicaid enrollees).

In early 2016, a survey by the Massachusetts Home Care Council found that two out of three home care workers would oppose having their names listed on a registry, and nine out of ten would not want their addresses included.

According to Lisa Gurgone, the Council’s executive director, workers were concerned about their privacy and safety; this was especially true for undocumented immigrants and survivors of domestic violence. When legislators initially proposed the training registry, several organizations also raised safety concerns about survivors of domestic violence. In a legislative hearing in July 2017, former U.S. Congressman Bill Delahunt (on behalf of the Home Care Association of America) called the registry a “Craigslist for predators.” Jane Doe, Inc., a Massachusetts-based domestic violence prevention group, also opposed the registry for comparable reasons.

In response to these critiques, Governor Baker vetoed the original registry bill and asked legislators to include an exemption process for people with heightened safety concerns. The final version of the bill instructs the state’s Department of Elder Affairs to provide an exemption process for “…victims of domestic violence, rape, sexual assault or stalking.” The Department has discretion to allow other segments of this workforce to opt out as well.

But concerns about the registry still linger. The exemption process might still require workers who have experienced domestic violence to disclose this information to their employers. Advocates are concerned that these workers may forgo exemption, even if that means compromising their safety, because they prefer not to share this information in the workplace.

In addition, the new home care worker training registry in Massachusetts might also face legal challenges. In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown about a similar bill in California, the Home Care Association of America claimed that offering workers’ contact information to labor unions would violate the National Labor Relations Act, which only allows unions to access contact information for potential members after 30 percent show interest in joining the union.

Barring a successful legal challenge, the state’s Department of Elder Affairs will soon implement the registry. They will decide which training to include in the registry, as well as the criteria and process for seeking exemption. Advocates for home care will likely remain engaged to ensure the registry improves the efficiency of training for personal care aides in Massachusetts, while also safeguarding their privacy where appropriate.

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