By Stephanie Román, Economic Policy Analyst, NCLR
Last Friday the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a decision that puts nearly two million home care workers in the United States one step closer to having critical minimum wage and overtime protections. The court’s decision upheld the Department of Labor’s (DOL) home care rule, providing home care workers with overtime and minimum wage protections, as a legal and justified change to the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) after it was challenged by home care business associations. DOL appealed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the home care business associations, thus taking the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. The department is now moving forward with its current policy of encouraging states and employers to take the necessary steps toward implementing the rule.
The court’s decision means that for the first time in U.S. history, home care workers will be recognized as workers worthy of the same basic overtime and minimum wage protections extended to all other workers. Friday’s decision comes after the Department of Labor’s January rule to address poverty-level wages and a lack of overtime compensation for home care workers was challenged in court by home care business associations.
The rule in question corrects a decades-long injustice of excluding home care workers from basic employment protections. Home care workers were left out of the 1974 update to the FLSA that expanded labor protections to domestic workers and have struggled to gain recognition and protections for their work. Home care workers provide individual care to elderly adults and assist people with disabilities with daily living tasks.
These workers are low-paid, predominately immigrant women and women of color. Poverty-level wages undermine the economic security of workers and their families and do not equate with the value that home care workers provide. Home care workers make an average of $9.70 per hour. NCLR has produced fact sheets and blog posts on these critical yet vulnerable workers.
The home care rule’s overtime and minimum wage protections are critical to current and future workers as the industry grows each year. In fact, home care has experienced a huge transformation over the years into a multibillion-dollar industry that is projected to keep growing as the U.S. population ages. This field has extremely high turnover rates. Investment in workers would help stabilize the workforce and make home care industry jobs the kind that will attract and retain dedicated workers.
Given Friday’s victory for the home care rule, DOL’s enforcement timeline for the rule depends on the legal actions taken by the businesses that challenged the department. Even as another challenge from the home care business associations may come, the U.S. Court of Appeals’ unanimous decision is heartening and should serve as a clear signal for states to act quickly and work to implement these basic protections for two million hardworking home care workers.