By Caitlin Connolly, National Employment Law Project
Tuesday, October 13, 2015, marks a historic day for our nation’s two-million-plus home care workers: after decades of being excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime protections, home care workers are now finally covered by these laws as new rules promulgated by the Obama administration take effect.
Home care workers’ exclusion from the most basic federal labor laws, rooted in racism and sexism, exemplified the undervaluation of this workforce. But new coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) means that home care workers are now entitled to a minimum wage, overtime pay, pay for travel time between consumers, and the host of federal protections and recourse granted to almost all other workers.
This protection sets a critical floor that helps ensure home care jobs are quality jobs. With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day, home care jobs are some of the fastest-growing occupations in our country, growing at a rate nearly five times greater than the rate of overall job growth. For our economy and well-being, we must make these attractive jobs. Federal protection under FLSA is the first step.
NELP, in partnership with a diverse set of allies and workers, fought for years to ensure fair pay and justice for home care workers by pushing to modernize and reform the U.S. Department of Labor’s home care rules, and bringing the realities of caregiving work to the public discussion. We celebrate this victory for home care workers and stand ready to support a speedy and broad implementation of these rules that will ensure that this critical workforce is properly valued and treated with dignity and respect.
The Obama administration’s home care rules were challenged in court by the International Franchise Association and the Home Care Association of America, delaying the minimum wage and overtime protections for 10 long months. On August 21, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously affirmed the validity of the new rules. Industry litigants then sought a stay of the rules from the U.S. Supreme Court—a request the Court denied.
As the Department of Labor’s home care rules go into effect, we offer resources from NELP and partners to explain the rule and its impacts and implementation models. We look forward to being a resource as states and employers implement the rule in a way that upholds the quality of jobs and values the services and care provided by our nation’s home care workers.