Direct Care Workers to Receive Minimum Wage and Overtime Protections
Fulfilling a promise by President Obama to ensure that direct care workers receive a “fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work,” the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule on September 17, 2013, extending the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation’s workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. This change is expected to benefit nearly two million direct care workers such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants by providing them with the same minimum wage and overtime protections that most other non-exempt employees receive.
Direct care workers play a critical role in ensuring access to high-quality home care that many people need in order to remain healthy and independent in their communities. The home care industry has grown dramatically over the last several decades as more Americans choose to receive long-term care at home instead of in nursing homes or other facilities. There are an estimated 1.9 million direct care workers in the U.S., with nearly all currently employed by home care agencies. Approximately 90 percent of direct care workers are women, and nearly 50 percent are minorities.
The Labor Department’s announcement extends minimum wage and overtime protections to all direct care workers employed by home care agencies and other third parties. Fifteen states already extend state minimum wage and overtime protections to direct care workers, and an additional six states and the District of Columbia mandate state minimum wage protections.
The final rule also clarifies that direct care workers who perform medically-related services for which training is typically a prerequisite are not companionship workers and therefore are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime. And, in accordance with Congress’ initial intent, individual workers who are employed only by the person receiving services or that person’s family or household and engaged primarily in fellowship and protection (providing company, visiting or engaging in hobbies) and care incidental to such activities, will still be considered exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections.
The rule will be effective Jan. 1, 2015. The Department of Labor has created a new web portal with interactive web tools, fact sheets and other materials to help families, employers, and workers understand the new requirements. This information is available at www.dol.gov/whd/homecare.