Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘home care workers’

Federal Judge: Home Care Workers Entitled to Minimum Wage and Overtime

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Kenneth QuinnellIn a unanimous decision, a federal appeals court reversed a district court and ruled that the U.S. Department of Labor was within its authority to issue a rule change meant to provide home care workers with a minimum wage and overtime protections. The case is now remanded to the district court.

In 2013, the Labor Department announced rule changes under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that would guarantee that workers who care for the elderly and people with disabilities in their homes would have the same labor protections as other workers. But U.S. District Judge Richard Leon halted the change saying that Labor didn’t have the authority to make the rule change. On appeal, the higher court disagreed. U.S. Circuit Judge Sri Srinivasan wrote for the court: “The Department’s decision to extend the FLSA’s protections to those employees is grounded in a reasonable interpretation of the statute and is neither arbitrary nor capricious.”

Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said she assumes that Labor now has the authority to implement the changes: “States would be well advised, and employers would be well advised, to take this decision as final and begin acting.”

As Think Progress reports:

This workforce, which is 90 percent female and half people of color, hasn’t been eligible for minimum wage or overtime pay since 1974, when they fell under the companionship exemption given the idea that they merely provided company to their clients. So while their average wages come to $9.61 an hournearly a third of those surveyed in New York City made less than $15,000 a year and nearly 40 percent of the entire workforce has to rely on public benefits to get by….

Home care workers are in a huge and rapidly expanding industry. Nearly 2.5 million people are employed in this line of work, making it one of the largest occupations, and the number of jobs is expected to grow 70 percent by 2020. Even so, demand is expected to outpace supply over the next decade as the country ages, something that could be eased with higher pay and benefits.

This post originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 26, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

The Fight for $15 is a Fight for Our Future

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

seiuI’ve worked in home care for four years. I take care of my mom. I cook, clean, do things around the house, help her to and from places. My work helps keep her in our home, so we can be together as a family.

I make just $294 a month.

To get paid $15 an hour would mean the world, because then I wouldn’t have to decide between paying my phone bill or buying food.

Home care workers don’t make much and neither do fast food workers. But we’re all just people, working hard and trying to provide for our families. We make lives better. We deserve a living wage.

On September 4, I joined with fellow home care workers here in Detroit to stand with striking fast food workers and demand $15 an hour and a union.

I want to get other home care workers and young people involved in the Home Care Fight for $15. I’m 23 years old and I know we can make our future better if we come together now. People my age — that’s who needs to stand up.

We’re the future. If we don’t stick together to fight for a living wage, , how’s it going to be for our kids?

I think it’s wonderful that SEIU members and nonunion workers are uniting. We’re all in this together.

This blog originally appeared on SEIU.org on September 22, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/blog/.

SEIU Members'"Family Photo Albums" Depict Up-Close and Personal Impacts of Cuts to Home Care

Monday, March 10th, 2014

seiu-org-logoHome care workers in California are standing up against a budget proposal from Governor Jerry Brown that would prohibit overtime. Under the governor’s proposal, caregivers could see their paychecks slashed by 43 percent, while clients’ hours of care could be reduced by 7 percent, compromising their care. This despite President Obama’s recent move to extended FLSA coverage to home care workers, affording them minimum wage protections and overtime pay.

Loretta Jackson, a UHW member from Sacramento County, provides care for three people, including her father, who suffers from dementia, and her sister. Without overtime, Loretta’s finances and her clients’ lives will be thrown into chaos.

“Leaving any of my clients with a stranger terrifies me,” said Loretta. “The governor is taking something that should make our lives and our clients’ lives better and turning everything upside down–putting them at risk and forcing me further into poverty.”

Yesterday, SEIU members from UHWULTCWCUHW, and UDW came together with the seniors, children and adults with disabilities they care for to deliver “Family Photo Albums” to legislators at the state capitol. These albums tell their stories and show the important relationship between home care workers and the people they care for.

“The governor’s proposal is to avoid paying overtime by simply prohibiting any worker from working more than 40 hours a week. What the proposal does is to break the fragile bond between home care worker and consumer and doom home care providers, mostly women and people of color, to an endless cycle of poverty,” said Rebecca Malberg, a home care director for SEIU-UHW, in her testimony to the California Assembly budget committee.

This article was originally printed on SEIU on March 6, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

Author: Molly O’Gorman

I recognize you do amazing work, but you're still not getting minimum wage

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Image: Richard NegriSomeone sent me an email earlier entitled, “U.S. Senate Declares National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.”

The big week of recognition is slotted to begin September 12th.

In the announcement for “Recognition Week,” Senator Ben Nelson says, “Direct support professionals provide an invaluable service to the millions of Americans living with disabilities. I’m proud to honor these hard-working individuals who give so much to help those in need. Their dedication to service is an example to us all.”

So, bravo to the Senate for marking a week in September to honor these workers, but honor and a week of applause doesn’t pay the bills. Surely, they must know this.

While the Senate “recognizes” these workers, more than 1.5 million home care workers are currently living at near-poverty level earning a median income of $17,000 a year. Most of these workers, who both love their work and are good at their work, must have two and three jobs to just make ends meet. Many of these workers need food stamps to put food on their tables. All this ultimately hurts the consumer, who often finds it difficult to find and retain high quality home care services.

Home care workers–the folks who provide essential care and services to more than 13 million seniors and people with disabilities every day–are legally excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections.

While we should definitely celebrate these workers’ contribution to society, we should also recognize their needs as working people. Perhaps we should help them get out from near poverty levels and give them the right to have a day off from time to time to take care of their own families? Why shouldn’t they be paid overtime when they work 70 and 80 hours a week with sleepovers as part of the gig?

I’ve mentioned this before in other entries but it is worth repeating: the U.S. Department of Labor has the authority to make this long overdue regulatory change and do the right thing for home care workers and the individuals and families who depend on their services. In other words, they have the authority to turn this around so that home care workers can enjoy the same benefits many take for granted.

What we need to do to bring this change about is let people know that this issue even exists, and second, we need take some very basic actions online.

On Facebook, become a fan of the Department of Labor’s Facebook page and post this message:

Secretary Solis, home care workers deserve minimum wage and overtime protection. It’s time to change the companionship exemption regulations: http://bit.ly/a5pF1e

On Twitter, copy, paste, and tweet this message:

@HildaSolisDOL, it’s time to end the exclusion of home care workers from minimum wage and overtime exemption: http://bit.ly/a5pF1e

On Facebook, you should also become a fan of this campaign’s page:

Homecare Workers Deserve Minimum Wage Protection.

Here’s some legal background on how home care workers came to be legally excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections:

* 1938 – The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is enacted to ensure a minimum standard of living for workers through the provision of a minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections — but domestic workers are excluded.

1974 – The FLSA is amended to include domestic employees such as housekeepers, full-time nannies, chauffeurs, and cleaners. However, persons employed as “companions to the elderly or infirm” remain excluded from the law.

1975 – The Department of Labor (DOL) interprets the “companionship exemption” as including almost all home care workers , even those employed by third parties such as home care agencies.

2001 – The Clinton DOL finds that “significant changes in the home care industry” have occurred and issues a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that would have made important changes to the exemption. The revision process is terminated, however, by the incoming Bush Administration.

2007 – The US Supreme Court, in a case brought by New York home care attendant Evelyn Coke, upholds the DOL’s authority to define exceptions to FLSA.

Today: We are calling on DOL Secretary Hilda Solis to ensure that home care workers receive basic labor protections.

Together we can create the same labor protections for home care workers that virtually ever other worker in the economy enjoys.

About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Does the Fair Labor Standards Act Hate Home Care Workers?

Friday, August 20th, 2010

Image: Richard NegriFor the last few months I’ve been thinking about and writing about home care workers. In my work, I find that if folks haven’t had to hire a homecare worker for themselves or their family, it appears that most of these workers fall off the radar.

The problem here is somewhat circular. The demand for homecare services is exploding as the baby boomer generation ages and more seniors and people with disabilities choose to live at home rather than in a nursing home. Low wages, no federal minimum wage or overtime protections, and no benefits contribute to homecare workers leaving their profession (turnover is estimated to be as high as 60% per year). Consumers and patients have difficulty finding and keeping homecare services as a result. Which leads to – yes – increasing demand for homecare workers.

How did this happen?

scales-250.jpgWell, it goes all the way back to 1938 when the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted to ensure a minimum standard of living for workers through the provision of minimum wage, overtime pay, and other protections – but domestic workers, for some reason, were excluded.

Then 36 years later, in 1974, the FLSA was amended to include domestic employees, such as housekeepers, full-time nannies, chauffeurs, and cleaners. However, people who were described as “companions to the elderly or infirm” were for some reason excluded from the law. They were compared to “babysitters.” Weird, huh?

The following year, in 1975, the Department of Labor (DOL) goes on to interpret this “companionship exemption” as including all direct-care workers in the home, even homecare workers employed by third parties, such as home care agencies.

So, in 2001, the Clinton DOL finds that “significant changes in the home care industry” have occurred and issues a “notice of proposed rulemaking” that would have made important changes to this weird exemption. They agreed that it made no sense to exclude this whole industry, as if they were just like “babysitters.”

Clinton’s findings were unfortunately short-lived because the incoming Bush Administration terminated the revision process. Thank you, Mr. Bush.

In 2007 something else happened worth noting: The US Supreme Court, in a case brought by New York home care attendant Evelyn Coke, upheld the DOL’s authority to define this exception to the FLSA. This means, this crazy archaic law can easily be reversed by the DOL.

Meanwhile more than 1.5 million homecare workers are currently living at near poverty level earning a median income of $17,000 a year. Most of these workers, who both love their work and are good at their work, must have two and three jobs to just make ends meet. Many of these workers need food stamps to put food on their tables. All this ultimately comes back to the consumer who often finds it difficult to find and retain high quality homecare services.

The injustice here is, as was said in a June 6 NY Times Op-Ed, ” …while nannies and caregivers make it possible for professional couples to balance the demands of family and work, they often cannot take time to be with their own families when sickness or injury strikes.”

Though I inherently know that we can fix this problem together, I am keen to know what you think is the best way to make this happen.

This article originally appeared on the SEIU Blog.

About the Author: Richard Negri is the founder of UnionReview.com and is the Online Manager for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

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