July 7, 2013

California Overtime and Home Healthcare Workers

From: LawyersAndSettlements.com

By Jane Mundy

Sacramento, CA: The Coalition for Sensible Safeguards (CSS) recently reported (June 2013) on a proposal to expand the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to cover home healthcare workers, a change that has been under the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for the past two years. This new rule would have a major impact regarding California overtime.

In December 2011, the Obama administration proposed regulations to give the nation’s nearly two million homecare workers minimum wage and overtime protections – workers who have been exempt from both protections. (A decision is expected within the next few months.)

In California, about 360,000 largely unionized homecare workers are employed by In-Home Supportive Services, a state program subsidizing homecare services for around 450,000 elderly, blind and disabled residents. But many workers, such as “personal attendants” and those employed directly by private households such as babysitters, are not paid overtime.

Under the California labor law, home healthcare workers are protected by the state’s minimum wage and overtime laws, but revising the FLSA would mean new overtime rules on California. Some people – including California Governor Jerry Brown – opposing this proposal estimate it will cost $150 million per year. The Los Angeles Times reported that Governor Brown would likely respond to the new rule by limiting the hours state homecare workers may work, effectively cutting the amount of care beneficiaries receive and pitting advocates for the disabled against labor.

California is one of 16 states that already extends minimum wage and overtime protection to home healthcare workers. The general rule in California is that all employees are entitled to overtime for work past eight hours in a day. In the healthcare field, however, many employers implement what is known as an “alternative workweek.” (Visit the state of California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for more information on overtime laws regarding alternative workweek.)

Most of the home healthcare industry is also opposing this new rule. Industry officials argue that changing labor laws, particularly overtime laws, would result in decreased home healthcare workers’ hours and that, in turn, could force the elderly into nursing homes. On the other hand, the CSS and other proponents of the proposed rule say that these workers should have the same rights and protections, including California overtime laws, as other workers, and that increased wages and overtime pay will result in lower turnover rates.

The main reason that Congress proposes this rule change is to exempt “companions for the elderly” from FLSA protections, and thereby encourage friends and neighbors to help out the elderly in their neighborhoods and communities. It isn’t their intent to keep two million home healthcare workers from earning fair wages.

Meanwhile, industry groups are hopeful that the new rule will contain modifications to address their concerns. If it doesn’t, they will likely seek legal help.

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