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Public Comment Period on the “Companionship Exemption” Extended

February 23, 2012

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that the public now has until March 12 to comment on the proposed revisions to the “companionship exemption,” which would give home care workers federal minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The short extension should have no impact on the ability of the Department of Labor to issue final regulations by this summer.

Private Duty Franchises Fight Change

In a flurry of recent advocacy, the trade organizations for the rapidly growing private duty franchises have ratcheted up their opposition to the proposed regulations.

In a recent USA Today article, “High Turnover Affects Home Health Care Quality,” Gale Bohling, director of government relations for the National Private Duty Association, says that if home care workers are paid for working overtime they “will not be able to assist people they consider family.”

Showing his complete lack of respect for the millions of women who provide home care services, Bohling adds, “For them, this really isn’t a job; it’s a lifestyle.”

Catherine Ruckelshaus, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, which is supporting the rule change, notes in the same article that home care workers’ salaries are around “$16,000 a year. No one can live on that. I think we forget the broader picture here.”

Notably, Bohling fails to mention that, as a result of their poor wages, half of home care workers live in households that rely on public benefits.

In an MSNBC blog post, “Home Health Care Industry Fights Overtime Proposal,” PHI National Policy Director Steve Edelstein takes on the industry claims.

In the post, he argues that “the exemption was never really intended to apply to businesses like home care agencies, and it wasn’t supposed to apply to workers who were doing these jobs as a vocation. We just have to recognize that it’s a real job and pay for the services accordingly.”

Advocates Speak Out

PHI and its partners at the Caring Across Generations campaign have been advocating for the regulatory change in a variety of media outlets. The following commentaries appeared last week:

Submit a Comment

To submit an official comment, learn more, and read other coverage on the companionship exemption, visit the PHI Fair Pay for Home Care Workers site.

— by Deane Beebe

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