Late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., struck down a proposed change to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would have required private and state-managed home health care agencies to pay their employees overtime and minimum wage.
Home health attendants and aides, disproportionately African American, female wage earners—neither nurse nor maid, but a combination of both—have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. The DOL issued a new rule in September of 2013, which would have finally included home-care workers under FLSA coverage. The overall rule was set to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year, but the portion struck down Wednesday was put on hold until Jan. 15 pending the court’s decision.
Home health aide Maria Fernandez, right, helps Bernardo Vega, 88, left, make the bed as she performs household chores for Vega and his wife. Fernandez works for United Home Care Services which provides health care and home care services for elderly and disabled adults. Photograph by Lynne Sladky — AP
“The affected workers—often known as personal-care aides, home-health aides or certified nursing assistants—typically bathe, dress and feed elderly or disabled patients. A large percentage of them are hired directly by people with disabilities or their families. Others are employed by private companies that provide services. Workers typically are paid with Medicaid funds administered by states.
“Many home-health workers already are paid more than the federal minimum wage—currently $7.25 an hour—but don’t get paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours a week. Many also have no health-care coverage themselves.”
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