Labor Department Announces Long-Awaited Home Care Workers Rule
by Katie Greenhaw, 9/18/2013
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule on Sept. 17 to increase the wage protections afforded to home care workers. The rule, first proposed nearly two years ago, will bring more domestic service workers under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime provisions. Worker rights and public interest groups are praising the reforms for narrowing an overly broad 1974 exemption in the FLSA that has denied domestic workers important labor protections.
Despite growth in the home care industry, workers’ earnings are among the lowest in the service industry. As DOL recognizes in the rule, "The lack of FLSA protections harms direct care workers . . . as well as the individuals receiving services and their families . . ." These long-awaited reforms will result in nearly two million direct care workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants – receiving the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers.
The rule has been a long time coming. Efforts to narrow the exemption to bring the home care workforce into line with FLSA policies have been derailed and delayed for years. Initially proposed in December 2011, the DOL finally submitted the final rule for White House review in January 2013, and advocates urged the administration to approve it without further delay. The new rule will go into effect on January 1, 2015.