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By Gayle Cinquegrani
The Labor Department is poised to issue a proposed rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, President Obama and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis announced Dec. 15.
The proposed rule likely will be published in the Federal Register in a week to 10 days, Wage and Hour Division Deputy Administrator Nancy Leppink said Dec. 15 at a telephone press conference that elaborated on the announcement. “Clearly the home health care industry is a growth industry,” Leppink said, so it is “critical” that the Labor Department protect and stabilize this workforce, which currently numbers almost 1.8 million nationwide.
The Fair Labor Standards Act currently exempts workers who provide “companionship services” from its minimum wage and overtime provisions. The proposed rule would limit the definition of “companionship services” to “fellowship” and “protection,” which would include activities such as playing cards, visiting with friends and neighbors, and taking walks. Only workers who are employed by households to do fellowship and protection duties would be exempt from overtime and minimum wage pay.
All in-home care workers employed by third-party employers, such as staffing agencies, automatically would receive minimum wage and overtime protections under the proposed rule. Third-party employers could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.
Solis predicted the proposed rule “will draw more qualified professionals into the in-home care-giving profession, and it will improve the quality of care for our loved ones.” It also will “level the playing field for staffing agencies, who will no longer be pressured to underpay their competitors on wages to gain an edge,” she said.
Following the proposal's publication, the public will have 60 days to comment. All comments should be labeled RIN 1235-AA05. They may be submitted electronically through the federal e-rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov or by mail to Mary Ziegler, Director of the Division of Regulations, Legislation, and Interpretation at the Wage and Hour Division, Labor Department, Room S-3502, 200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210.
By Gayle Cinquegrani
Text of the draft proposed rule may be accessed at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=gcii-8pkqzs .
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