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U.S. Labor Secretary Resigns

January 15, 2013

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis, an ardent supporter of revising the companionship exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act, submitted her resignation on January 9.

“Secretary Solis has been a champion of the nation’s 2.5 million home care workers,” said PHI President Jodi Sturgeon. “She stood with President Obama when he promised that home care workers — the fastest-growing occupations in the nation — will finally be paid a fair wage.”

Secretary Solis shared the stage with Obama, home care workers, providers, and consumers on December 15, 2011, when he announced the Administration’s plans to revise the Department of Labor (DOL) regulation that excludes home care workers from federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

On January 15, DOL sent the draft final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which has 90 days to issue the final rule.

A 2007 decision handed down by the Supreme Court said that only the DOL and Congress have the authority to change this decades-old rule.

Shortly after Obama announced the Administration’s plans to revise the regulation to extend home care workers a fair wage, DOL conducted a public comment period on the proposed rule. The comment period, which was extended on two occasions, ended on March 21, 2012 with three-quarters of the 26,000 comments in favor of revising the rule.

On January 15, DOL sent the draft final rule to the White House Office of Management and Budget, which has 90 days to issue the final rule.

Make Good on His Promise

“We expect that President Obama will make good on his promise to home care workers, and that he will appoint a new Secretary of Labor — who, like Secretary Solis, understands the need to create quality jobs for low-income Americans,” Sturgeon said. 

Solis, the 25th labor secretary, served in the President’s Cabinet during his first term and is the first and only Hispanic woman to be appointed to a Cabinet position. She plans to leave her post later in January to return to her home in California, where she served as a congresswoman and state senator. 

In a letter sent to DOL staff informing them of her departure, Solis reflects on how they “played an important and active role in crafting regulatory actions to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Our work will help make President Obama’s vision of a health care system that works for America a reality for millions of people.”

“Thank you for all you have done and will continue to do to make life more just and safer for workers across this country,” Solis writes.

Solis joins several other Cabinet members who have stepped down before Obama’s second term.

Sign the Petition

A PHI online petition calls on the Obama administration to keep its year-old promise to the home care workforce.

— by Deane Beebe

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