Since the 1970’s home health aid have been considered companions and thus fall into an exception which denies them FLSA protection. The “elder companion exemption” has allowed staffing agencies to avoid paying their aides overtime pay. While this issue is hotly debated between Republicans and Democrats, legal advocates for home-care workers subsequently went to court. But in 2007 the Supreme Court upheld the exemption by ratifying the role of executive agencies, like the Labor Department, in making such determinations.
Now, President Obama has proposed that these health care workers be placed under the FLSA and not be exempt as they have been for so long.
The President is faced with strong opposition from the Republican party who wishes to continue having these workers considered companions and exempt. Senator Johanns introduced the Companionship Exemption Protection Act, which would permanently codify their exclusion by defining “companionship services” to include “meal preparation, bed making, washing of clothes, errands” and “assistance with incontinence and grooming.” In assuming that adequate care can come only from suppressing wages, these Republicans seek to pit the interests of care receivers and givers against one another.
If President Obama is successful in getting his proposal through, this could extend federal employment protections, which most other workers take for granted, to a whole new class of workers.
With a work force of about 2.5 million, two-thirds of whom would be affected by the proposed rule, home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing job category in the country, projected to double by 2018. As women, immigrants and service workers have become the new face of labor, what happens to home care matters for the shape of our economy, the fate of unionism and the establishment of a decent standard of living for all.
While this proposal is still being debated, there are other rights, which protect home health aid workers. If you are in this line of work, don’t assume that you have no rights, contact the Harman Firm to know your rights.