U.S. Department of Labor Extends Minimum Wage & Overtime Protections to Home-Care Workers; California Goes a Step Further

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor adopted a final rule that guarantees protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") to health and personal-care workers who assist the elderly and people with illnesses and disabilities.  The DOL's rule will extend FLSA's minimum wage and overtime protections to nearly 2 million home-care workers; an industry that is made up primarily by women and immigrants.   

In announcing the rule, the DOL noted that despite the growth of the home-care industry, "direct care workers remain among the lowest paid in the service industry.”

The new rule explicitly extends FLSA coverage to all home-care workers employed by agencies or third parties.  It also narrows the so-called "companionship-services" exemption, though does not eliminate the exemption entirely.  This exemption still carves out some caregivers.  For example, under the federal rule, the FLSA will not extend to a home-care worker employed directly by the person or family receiving services of fellowship. 

While the DOL rule is a major step in providing basic worker protections to the growing industry of home care, California went further last week by passing the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill that will extend minimum wage and overtime protections to approximately 100,000 workers.  The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights defines “domestic work” as “services related to the care of person in private household or maintenance of private households or their premises.  Domestic work occupations include childcare providers, caregivers of people with disabilities, sick, convalescing, or elderly person, house cleaners, housekeepers, maids, and other household occupations.”

The California bill is broader than the DOL rule because it does not contain a "companionship-services" exemption.  The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is also significant because it more broadly protects in-home child care workers; however, the law excludes casual babysitting where the “casual babysitter is a person whose employment is irregular or intermittent.”

As an increasing number of families rely on home-care workers, the DOL's rule and California's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights recognize the growing need to provide wage protections to the vulnerable populations that make up the direct-care industry. 

The DOL rule goes into effect in January 2015, while California's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights goes into effect January 2014.

By Anthony Tucci | September 30, 2013

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