On September 17, 2013, the Obama administration approved new regulations that extend minimum wage and overtime pay to nearly two million home health care workers who help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks such as bathing, eating or taking medicine.

As reported in a recent U.S. News article, Home care aides have been exempt from federal wage laws since 1974, when they were placed in the same category as neighborhood baby sitters. But their ranks have surged with the aging population and the field is now one of the fastest-growing professions. Affirming that the workers deserve the same legal protections as most other employees, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in an official statement, “Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home.”

This change, effective January 1, 2015, ensures that the nearly two million workers – such as home health aides, personal care aides, and certified nursing assistants – will have the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers. It will help ensure that individuals and families who rely on the assistance of direct care workers have access to consistent and high quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

Among other things, the final rule overrules the 2007 holding of the U.S. Supreme Court in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, and requires third-party employers such as staffing agencies to pay companions and home health workers overtime under the FLSA when they work in excess of 40 hours per week.  Fifteen states (including Michigan) already extend state minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, and another six states and Washington, D.C. mandate state minimum wage protections.

The current median pay for home care workers is approximately $9.70 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, according to Labor Department figures. But overtime pay could help lift wages substantially for those who work more than 40 hours a week. The new rules will continue to exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements those workers who mainly visit the elderly to provide company or engage in hobbies and are employed directly by the person receiving services.

Sommers Schwartz routinely represents home care workers in wage disputes.  While this new law doesn’t take effect until 2015, home care workers may currently be entitled to overtime if they perform certain housekeeping job duties in addition to their regular home care or companionship services.  If you have questions regarding your right to overtime compensation as a home care worker, please call Sommers Schwartz for a free consultation.

Jason J. Thompson

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Jason J. Thompson

Jason Thompson is a nationally board certified trial attorney and co-chairs Sommers Schwartz’s Complex Litigation Department. He has a formidable breadth of litigation experience, including class action and multidistrict litigation (MDL), and practices nationwide in both state and federal courts.