Supreme Court Declines to Take Appeal on Home Care Rule; True Victory for Home Care Workers

CAG Homecare worker2The Supreme Court has ended the legal battle against the recently won rights of home care workers to critical overtime and minimum wage benefits.

On Monday, the high court decided not to hear an appeal from several home care industry groups that argued the Department of Labor (DOL)’s expansion of minimum wage and overtime benefits to home care workers was an illegal and unjustified change to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court’s decision not to hear the case is a victory for home care workers, and an end to the court case Home Care Association of America v. Weil, which sought to take away minimum wage and overtime rights from home care workers.

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Home Care Is Real Work That Deserves a Fair Wage

By Stephanie Román, Economic Policy Analyst, NCLR

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Supporters of the Home Care Rule in front of the Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC at the Home Care Rule press conference.

D’Rosa is a home care worker who struggles to make ends meet. She is from Georgia, where she works with elderly adults. At a recent press event in Washington, DC, D’Rosa and other home care workers addressed a crowd of reporters and advocates to make the case that home care work is real work.

D’Rosa spoke about the aspects of her work that she loves—forming strong bonds with her clients—but also its difficulties: “I do not get any overtime. It’s $9 an hour no matter how many hours we work. I love my job, but my family is just scraping by.” Home care workers like D’Rosa are fighting not only for access to minimum wage regulations and overtime protections, but also for recognition and dignity as workers.

D’Rosa’s story is just one of many from home care workers who would benefit from a pending U.S. Department of Labor rule on home care. The much-needed rule would expand minimum wage and overtime rights established by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to the two million home care workers who currently lack these basic protections.

Home care workers are predominately immigrant women and women of color. They provide individual care to elderly adults and assist people with disabilities with daily living tasks. NCLR has produced fact sheets and blog posts on these critical yet vulnerable workers.

In January, the Department of Labor took a critical step to address poverty-level wages and a lack of overtime compensation for home care workers by issuing the Home Care Rule to expand FLSA protections. The rule 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.

The proposed rule reflects an increasing recognition of the value of home care work, yet the rule is being challenged in court by home care business associations. The legal challenge could mean that the two million U.S. home care workers who desperately need these protections will continue to struggle financially.

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D’Rosa, a home care worker from Georgia, speaking at the Home Care Rule press conference..

Home care work is physically and emotionally demanding, there is high turnover, and compensation is low. Moreover, employers that pay their employees a living wage can benefit from less turnover, greater productivity, and lower training costs. Home care is a multibillion-dollar industry that is projected to keep growing as the U.S. population ages. By 2020, the home care industry is predicted to grow by 1.3 million jobs, a rate of 70 percent—much faster than the growth rate of 14 percent for all occupations.

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. Another estimate, which factors in unpredictable schedules and part-time hours, approximates median annual earnings of just $13,000 for home care workers, leaving one-quarter of home care worker households below the federal poverty line.

It’s difficult to not be moved by the stories of everyday struggle that D’Rosa and others face as home care workers. As a working mother, she’s doing her best to provide for their children with wages that make it nearly impossible. The Department of Labor’s Home Care Rule would help tremendously in making sure that these valued workers can keep caring for our loved ones.

Delaying Fair Pay for Home Care Workers is an Injustice

Caregiver_resizedThe Department of Labor (DOL) has sought to improve working conditions for home care workers by implementing a rule that grants these workers minimum wage and overtime protection. When the rule was finalized in September 2013, NCLR and its allies declared it a long-overdue victory for two million home care workers. Despite a full notice-and-comment process, accepting and considering tens of thousands of public comments, and an unprecedented 15-month implementation period, Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia blocked the rule in January. In response, DOL has filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

We firmly support boosting wages for home care workers, and last week we joined in the submission of an amicus brief to support DOL in its appeal of Judge Leon’s ruling. Twenty percent of home care workers are Latino. Fair pay would not only help reduce high turnover in this industry, but would also bring stability and higher-quality care to those who depend on home care workers.

“The Supreme Court has already decided that DOL was well within its authority to grant these much-needed protections to home care workers. To continue to stall implementation of these rules—basic labor protections that home care workers have been excluded from for 40 years—is not only unjust, it is a slap in the face to those who we rely on to care for our loved ones,” said Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of the Office of Research, Advocacy, and Legislation at NCLR, in a statement. “Home care workers have waited long enough for fair pay. Further delay of these regulations is unacceptable.”

The legal underpinnings of DOL’s appeal are firm and we are confident in standing with the department. As the case makes its way through the legal system, we will continue to work with the states to help them build on the groundwork laid to implement these rules.

Change Has Finally Come for Home Care Workers

Alicia Criado, Field Coordinator, Economic and Employment Policy Project

HomeCareWorker 4_1Do you or someone you know care for the elderly or disabled at home?  I do, and I suspect you probably do as well.  In fact, I have several aunts who work as personal care aides, providing vital in-home care and support for their elderly neighbors.

Unfortunately, they, along with millions of other home care workers, did not have access to basic workplace protections.  But that changed earlier this week. Continue reading

Stop Excluding Home Care Workers from Minimum Wage and Overtime Pay!

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Last week marked the 75th anniversary of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that established minimum wage and overtime protections for American workers. In light of this historic moment, we’re gathering signatures for a petition urging President Obama to keep his promise to correct an injustice against nearly two million American home care workers, who are currently excluded from the FLSA.

We can’t wait another 75 years. We have to act now.

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