Lawmaker goes to bat for home care workers


WASHINGTON (PAI)--Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., is trying to get the nation's home health care workers the right to earn at least the minimum wage and overtime.

Following in the footsteps of fellow California Democrat Lynn Woolsey -- who tried to get the workers the pay three years ago -- Sanchez introduced a bill to overturn a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision saying those workers aren't covered by the pay law, the Fair Labor Standards Act. Woolsey's bill went nowhere.

The Service Employees Union supported the elderly New York home health care worker -- who has since died -- and argued the 2007 case to the justices for her minimum wage and overtime. They lost. SEIU then strongly backed Woolsey's bill. When Sanchez re-introduced it on July 28, both SEIU and AFSCME supported it.

"Laws should respect all hard working Americans equally," Sanchez said at a press conference with home health care groups. "No matter whether you sit behind a corporate desk or care for an elderly person in a home, all work has dignity."

Last year, Sanchez asked Obama Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to issue regulations that could help home health care workers get better wages. But Sanchez said the issue is important enough for legislation, too.

"As the daughter of a father living with Alzheimer's, I know just how important home care workers are. Yet, every year, home-care aides land on Forbes magazine's list of the '25 worst-paying jobs in America,'" Sanchez added.

"Regardless of the work you do, if you do it well, you should be compensated enough to take care of your family and put food on the table," she concluded.

Photo: (Family Nursing)

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  • Protection of Home Health Care workers is not at issue. They are already covered by the minimum wage and overtime laws. The only workers who are not covered are Live-In Companions, and the Dep't of Labor has very specific criteria defining this very small segment of in-home care workers. If any hourly home care workers aren't being paid minimum wage and overtime, it is due to a lack of enforcement, not a lack of legal protection. Despite the DOL exemption, most states require minimum wage to be paid to live-ins. Overtime requirements are waived, however, because the live-in companion is on "standby" much of the time, and must be provided with both room and board (meals) by the employer in whose home the care is being provided. Live-ins are entitled to normal sleep time, as well. They cannot perform nursing or other clinical care, just assistance with routine personal care and household assistance like cooking, light housekeeping, shopping. They can't be utilized primarily as a housekeeper or as a nanny. Live-in workers can expect to be paid $150/day and up in addition to the room and board. Most work 3-5 days/week, with a second live-in worker covering the other days. Some work alternating 7 day periods. The care is already very expensive for even the well-off (the only ones using this type of care), but it is an available option to prevent out-of-home care in a facility. SEIU stands to take in significantly more dues money in the short run from its live-in home care worker members, but live-in companionship care will be financially prohibitive if overtime rules are mandated, and those workers will be out work.

    Posted by Brian Davis, 07/31/2010 3:47am (5 years ago)

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