Obama Administration announces new protections for in-home workers

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The Department of Labor proposed December 15 the first-ever minimum wage and overtime protections for the nation’s estimated 1.79 million in-home care workers.

“The nearly 2 million in-home care workers across the country should not have to wait a moment longer for a fair wage,” President Obama said in a news release. “They work hard and play by the rules and they should see that work and responsibility rewarded. Today’s action will ensure that these men and women get paid fairly for a service that a growing number of older Americans couldn’t live without.”

Since 1974, workers classified as “companions,” such as babysitters, have been exempt from the Fair Labor Standard’s Act minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. Advocacy groups for people with disabilities and the elderly have argued that this provision is too broad, noting that 1.59 million of these individuals are employed by staffing agencies and that more than 40 percent of these individuals rely on government assistance programs.

The proposed rules would cover only individuals covered by third parties, such as staffing agencies. Twenty nine states currently provide no similar protections to in-home workers.

The issue gained increased attention in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled that Evelyn Coke, an in-home care worker who worked 70 hours a week, was not legally entitled to overtime pay.