On FLSA Anniversary, Biden Promises Fair Pay for Home Care Workers
Vice President Biden reaffirmed the Obama Administration‘s intention to extend federal minimum-wage and overtime protections to home care workers at a White House event on June 25.
The event commemorated the 75th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which, among other things, established a national minimum wage and guaranteed time-and-a-half pay for overtime.
But home care workers — seen as mere “companions” to elders and people with disabilities — are still excluded from such protections under FLSA’s “companionship exemption.”
“As the home care business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up,” Biden said.
Biden spoke about his late mother’s relationship with her home care workers, who allowed her to live her final years independently at home.
“Toward the end, my mom needed help,” he said. “She didn’t need a nurse, an RN, or even a practical nurse”; rather, she needed help with personal care tasks such as “bathing, cooking, [and] keeping track of her medications.”
A Long Wait
President Obama initially stated his intention to change the companionship exemption in December 2011.
“Now, we’re following through with that promise,” Biden said. The Obama Administration is “now working to finalize the rule that will get this done.”
Latino Home Care Workers
In its Monthly Latino Employment Report, the National Council of La Raza notes that 227,000 Latinos are employed in the home care industry, and none have federal minimum-wage or overtime protections.
In its spring itinerary for regulations, the Department of Labor (DOL) said it expected a final ruling on home care worker wages to be reached this month.
Home care workers — along with consumers, employers, and advocates — say that they have waited long enough for fair pay.
A June 30 New York Times editorial pointed out that the DOL’s proposal to revise the companionship exemption was not submitted to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs until January 2013 — more than a year after Obama first “lauded” the proposal at the White House, the editorial states.
Editorials Spotlight Home Care Workers’ Wait for Fair Pay
Several other media outlets highlighted the fact that home care workers are still waiting for full protections under FLSA on the law’s 75th anniversary:
- “Ending Home Care Workers’ Exclusion from the Fair Labor Standards Act Will Help Prepare America to Care,” PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein, The Hill, June 26
- “A Vision on the Verge of Realization,” Carla Washington, The Hill, June 28
- “After 75 Years, Minimum Wage Protections Still Elude Home Care Workers,” Sarah Leberstein and Catherine Ruckelshaus, Huffington Post, June 28
- “What Obama Could Do for Home Health Care Workers,” Anne L. Thompson, The Grio, June 25
— by Matthew Ozga