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Newsday Op-Ed Supports Fair Wages for Home Care Workers

March 8, 2012

America’s undervalued home care workforce deserves to be paid a fair wage, according to an op-ed published in Newsday on March 6.

In the op-ed, S.E. Watts, who lives with physical limitations, writes that she depends on her home care workers to help her perform basic tasks, including bathing, preparing meals, and housekeeping.

However, under the Fair Labor Standards Act‘s “companionship exemption,” home care workers are excluded from the basic federal wage protections of minimum wage and time-and-a-half pay for overtime.

“These workers…are considered [by federal law] to be mere ‘companions’ to the ‘elderly and infirm,’ the equivalent of a teenage baby-sitter,” Watts writes.

In December 2011, President Obama announced a proposed rule change that would finally extend minimum-wage and overtime protections to home care workers. The public has until March 21 to submit a comment on the proposal.

Home care workers are the “backbone of the home care system, yet they are undervalued and do not get the respect that they deserve. Updating the companionship exemption would be a very good start,” Watts writes.

For more information on the companionship exemption, including sample comments, visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay home page.

— by Matthew Ozga

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