DOL Rule Would Expand Overtime for Salaried Home Care Workers

The Department of Labor (DOL) sparked an ongoing battle when it moved in 2013 to extend overtime protections to home health aides and similar types of workers. Now, it is making moves to extend overtime protections to a larger group of so-called “white collar” workers as well.

Specifically, the agency is proposing to substantially raise the minimum salary level at which “white collar” workers, including those in the home health industry, can be exempt from overtime protections.

Under the proposed rule published in the Federal Register, the DOL would raise the standard salary level required for exemption from its current value of $455 a week ($23,660 for a full-year worker) to $970 per week, or $50,440 for full-year workers.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) guarantees a minimum wage and overtime pay at a rate that is no less than 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. 

While these protections extend to most workers, the FLSA provides several exemptions, particularly for executive, administrative and professionals, or “white collar” workers, according to language used in the proposed rule.

Others that are not required to be paid the minimum wage or overtime pay include domestic service workers employed to provide “companionship services” either for the elderly, ill, injured or disabled. These workers include nursing, psychiatric, home health aides, personal and home care aides. 

“All the workers who fall within these occupational and industry categories were previously excluded from the analysis because they are paid on an hourly basis and/or are in an occupation where workers have no likelihood of qualifying for the section 13(a)(I) exemption,” the proposed rule states.

One of the DOL’s primary goals in this proposed rule is updating the section 13(a)(1) exemption’s salary requirements. 

Under current regulations, an executive, administrative or professional employee must be paid at least $455 per week—$23,660 per year for a full-year worker—in order to come within the standard exemption. Additionally, in order to come within the exemption for highly compensated employees, such an employee must earn at least $100,000 in total annual compensation.

For non-salaried home care workers, which are exempt from the proposed policies issued in the rule, the issue of overtime and minimum wage protections has been an ongoing debate across the country.

Massachusetts was the first state to enact a $15 per hour starting minimum wage for home care workers, while caregivers elsewhere continue their own respective fights for $15. 

The DOL will accept submitted written comments on the proposed rule through September 4, 2015. 

View the proposed rule in the Federal Register. 

Written by Jason Oliva