New Bill Extends Labor Protections and Benefits to Home-Care Workers

Last month, Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) introduced legislation to Congress that would extend the federal minimum wage and overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to most home care workers. The Direct Care Workforce Empowerment Act of 2010 also outlines improvements in both federal and state reporting and oversight, and creates a grant program to encourage states to provide better recruitment and training programs for direct care workers.

Home care workers are currently exempt from overtime under federal law. Home care workers fill a critical need by enabling people to remain in their homes instead of moving into nursing homes. Services include a combination of life assistance (daily chores such as cooking, laundry, errands and companionship) and medical assistance (medication reminders, pain management, wound care and physical therapy).

Our nation is ill-prepared to meet the health and social needs of older adults and their families. According to one source,“by 2030, one in five Americans will be age 65 or older — 75 percent of whom will have at least one chronic condition, with 20 percent having five or more chronic conditions.” The field of home health care assistance is expected to expand every year. It is unfair to continue to deprive home health care workers the same basic work protections that are afforded to high-school students working in fast food.

If you are a home health care worker and feel like your employer is not following the new guidelines, which are expected to be enacted later in the year, a qualified New Jersey employment attorney can provide you information as to what your options are for your particular situation.