The title, above, is how a respected colleague starts her article in The Washington Times about a new rules proposal from the US Department of Labor. The proposed rule, as Laurie Edwards-Tate points out, recommends
removing the “companionship exemption” from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This change, while perhaps well-intentioned on the surface, threatens the quality of home care for many of America’s seniors and disabled adults and will put thousands of people employed in the home care industry out of work.
The proposed rule sounds fair, superficially, as I discussed in previous posts here and here about this issue. It really is a false issue, however. In California, minimum wage is $8 per hour. For hourly shifts, we actually pay $11 or $12 per hour (more than unionized home care workers make, by the way). How can mandating minimum wage and overtime for personal attendants help our employees. Right now, they can work as many hours as they want. If overtime is added, the cost will prohibit us from allowing employees to work more than 40 hours, since we will not be able to pass the cost on to the consumer.
As Laurie points out,
Modifying the exemption will have unintended consequences. In 29 states, including California, an agency will employ a live-in caregiver for a 24-hour shift. If the overtime exemption is eliminated, the agency will staff this case with three workers in eight-hour shifts instead. The workers’ pay will drop and the client will lose continuity of care and the safety it provides with three workers rather than one.
Loss of an affordable in-home non-medical care option will force many seniors and people with disabilities into institutional care, which is often paid for through Medicare, Medicaid or another government program. This puts the burden on taxpayers. At a time where the nation is taking a hard look at cutbacks in these programs, this is a cost Americans can ill-afford.
President Obama’s Administration really needs to look beneath the surface of what sounds good, emotionally, and what union political supporters may want, to determine the real impact — for employees and for clients and families. For our employees currently working 24-hour shifts, for example, they will go from $192 per shift to an 8-hour shift making half of that amount or less.
We hope that Home Care Aides, clients and families — everyone who understands the need for great home care — will comment on the proposed US Department of Labor rules by clicking here.
Best wishes. Bert