Federal Court Strikes Down Rule on Pay for Home-Health Workers

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.

Maria Fernandez, Bernardo Vega

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.”

Read more from Time, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal

Why struggles for criminal justice and living wage are uniting

“Black Lives Matter” doesn’t just refer to cops killing unarmed teens. Here’s why it’s expanding to mean much more. Black poverty is state violence, too. 

“For the second time in a week, the swelling protests against police brutality and an unequal criminal justice system coincided with planned labor strikes at low-wage employers yesterday, and for the second time, protesters joined forces, combining the struggle for a living wage with the struggle for the right to live free of police violence.

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

Members of Show Me $15 in North St. Louis (Credit: David Nehrt-Flores)

“Convenience store workers, airport workers, and home care workers joined the actions calling for $15 an hour and a union, broadening the movement still more, but what really gave Thursday its kick was the connection to the emotions (and tactics) of Ferguson activists and their nationwide supporters. Robinson and his fellow workers staged a “die-in” as part of their day of actions, in a North St. Louis convenience store, their bodies stretched between metal racks of chips and candy, clogging the space in an echo both of historic sit-down strikes (that Walmart workers also evoked two weeks back) and a reminder of the way Brown’s body lay in the street for four and a half hours after he was shot.

“Labor struggles have a long, checkered history with struggles for racial justice and particularly against violence. Black workers’ unions were central to the Civil Rights movement… Their struggle—remember the “I Am a Man” signs carried by the workers in Memphis—was always about more than just wages. It was and is about being seen as humans worthy of respect, respect they would demand if it was not freely given.”

Read more from Salon here

 

 

 

An Ounce of Prevention – Anticipating Changes to Companionship Regulations

“Enforcement of a final rule that takes effect Jan. 1, 2015, to extend Fair Labor Standards Act minimum-wage and overtime protections to certain direct-care workers is to be delayed, but employers should not hesitate to ensure timely compliance with the rule’s minimum-wage, overtime and record-keeping requirements. Effective Jan. 1, home-care agencies and third-party employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage and overtime to jointly or solely employed direct-care workers, such as a certified nursing assistant, home-health aide, personal care aide, caregiver or companion.

JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES Home care aides often make substantially less than their peers in hospitals and nursing homes

JOE RAEDLE / GETTY IMAGES
Home care aides often make substantially less than their peers in hospitals and nursing homes

“The key change that is applicable to private employers and to states is going to be tracking worker hours and better record-keeping practices,” said Sarah Leberstein, a lawyer with the National Employment Law Project and co-author of its Aug. 2011 “Fair Pay for Home Care Workers: Reforming the U.S. Department of Labor’s Companionship Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” report. “It shouldn’t be rocket science. But some employers haven’t had to track hours worked by [home-care] workers,” she said, noting that this is especially true of states that thought of home-care workers as independent providers.

Workers should also be instructed on marking time worked, and employers should consider innovative ways to keep time records, Leberstein said. Under the final rule, “if the employee spends more time working than was anticipated, the employee must be paid,” Joseph K. Mulherin, a shareholder in Vedder Price’s Chicago office who advises employers on employment-law issues, said in a June 13, interview with Katarina E. Wiegele for Bloomberg BNA’s FLSA Litigation Tracker. “If the employee’s sleep time, meal periods or other periods of free time are interrupted, the interruption must be counted as hours worked.”

“In home-care work arrangements, there will undoubtedly be situations where the employee is working without the employer’s knowledge, e.g., because the employer is sleeping,” Mulherin said. “Thus, it is critical that employers require their employees to accurately self-report all actual work hours.”

The Labor Department Home Care web portal has employer resources and a page for workers to download a work calendar or link to a Smartphone app to track hours. For more information on the changes, see the Department of Labor Website: Home Health Care and the Companionship Services Exemption Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)  or the Comparison of Current vs. Proposed Companionship Regulations. Or read more about innovative ideas for complying with the changes at Bloomberg BNA.

Massachusetts Domestic Workers Will Get Labor Rights

“On Thursday, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, 39-0, including all Republicans who voted. Once it passes a procedural hurdle in the House and is signed by the governor, the state will be the fourth to pass a bill of rights.

“The bill will guarantee the state’s 67,000 domestic workers a day off each week, breaks for meals and rest, and job-protected, unpaid maternity leave. (The Family and Medical Leave act, which guarantees workers 12 weeks of unpaid family leave, only applies to employers with 50 or more workers.) They will also get better protections from discrimination and sexual harassment. And they will have better knowledge of all of these rights, as employers will be required to give them notice of the rights at the start of their employment. Those who work more than 16 hours a week will also be required to be given written contracts.”

Read more here