Labor Department: Protections for Home Care Workers Go Into Effect Jan. 1, Enforcement Delayed

The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday that it will uphold its Jan. 1, 2015 timeline for extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers, despite calls for a delay in implementation, but it will temporarily delay its enforcement of the new rule.

National workers’ advocacy, civil rights and women’s groups recently signed on to a letter urging the Department of Labor to implement the long-awaited reforms that include extending federal minimum wage and overtime protections for home care workers.

The letter followed past remarks by Department of Labor officials that fueled concern that the administration would further delay reforms.

The National Association of Medicaid Directors previously requested a further 18-month delay in the new pay rule, and Kansas and Oregon also submitted letters requesting a delay.

In its announcement, the Department of Labor stated that it will suspend its enforcement of the rule for six months, through June 2015, and for the subsequent six months will exercise prosecutorial discretion in enforcing the new requirements.

“The Department of Labor enforcement delay will give states and private employers ample additional time to assess their current pay practices and make necessary adjustments to ensure that workers are paid for all hours worked and any overtime hours after 40 hours in a week,” the agency said in a written statement.

Although some states and organizations pushed to delay the rule, California and New York, which run the nation’s two largest Medicaid home care programs, accounting for 65% of the nation’s home care workforce, took steps to implement the rules change by the deadline. Other states have also begun tracking workers’ weekly hours and are gearing up to pay workers for all of their work time, as the rules change requires.

Recently, thousands of home care workers in 150 cities joined fast-food industry employees in their efforts to persuade lawmakers to raise the minimum wage requirement.

The nation’s two million home care workers provide critical in-home supports to seniors and people with disabilities and comprise the two fastest-growing occupations in the nation, according to PHI, an advocacy group for the direct care workforce, adding that one in five home care workers lives below the poverty line, and more than one in two rely on some form of public assistance to make ends meet.

“In opting not to delay the effective date of the new rule, Secretary Perez and the Labor Department are signaling that home care workers have waited long enough for the fundamental right to a fair wage, and they will no longer be denied,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “The six-month enforcement suspension gives employers extra time to get their act together, but they should be under no illusions about their responsibility to follow through on these important reforms.”

Read the announcement here.

Written by Cassandra Dowell

Cassandra Dowell