Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law to establish a registry for home care workers employed by state-contracted in-home care agencies on Nov. 24.
The registry has drawn controversy over whether it sufficiently protects worker privacy. The law requires state-contracted home care workers to include their name, gender, home and mailing addresses, job title and training or certifications. Advocates for the law say it will empower workers and provide industry oversight, according to the Boston Herald.
California lawmakers passed a bill that would have required the State Department of Social Services to give home care aides’ names and phone numbers to labor unions; that bill was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
To temper privacy concerns, home care advocates had proposed eliminating personal information, such as addresses, in favor of a licensing process with a database of workers’ training and education, MassLive reported.
The bill signed into law includes exemptions for home care workers who are victims of domestic violence, harassment or sexual assault, MassLive noted.
However, industry leaders argue these exemptions are not sufficient.
“This bill would say they have to tell their employer they have some sort of issue in their life, and it’s really sort of revictimizing the victim,” Lisa Gurgone, executive director of the Home Care Aide Council (HCAC), told Home Health Care News. The HCAC is a Massachusetts trade association representing home care agencies and community-based organizations based in Watertown, Massachusetts.
Though a home care worker’s full name, identification number, training and employer would be available to the public, addresses would not be public. However, if an employee organization, such as a labor union, home care worker agency or an aging services access point, requests the information, all reported information would be provided.
Unlike home care registries in other states, there’s no limit in the Massachusetts law on how that information could be used, Gurgone noted.
“The bill doesn’t limit what the entity that requested that information could do with it,” she told HHCN.
Home care agencies are “considering all options” to address their privacy and safety concerns, according to a joint statement from Gurgone, Bill Delahunt, representing the Massachusetts chapter of the Home Care Association of America, and Pat Kelleher, executive director of the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts. The coalition represents more than 30,000 home care aides, according to the statement.
The HCAC previously said it would consider suing Massachusetts if the bill becomes law, MassLive noted.
For now, the group is assessing where things stand, Gurgone told HHCN, but it is likely the group will have to come to a decision soon, as the bill included an emergency preamble that enables the law to take effect immediately.
“It’s on the fast track, so we’ll definitely have to move quickly,” Gurgone told HHCN.
Tyrek D. Lee Sr., executive vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, told the Boston Herald that the law will improve patient care and provide better understanding of workers’ training needs, in addition to bringing oversight to the home care industry.
Gurgone doesn’t buy it.
“We did not oppose the training information, we opposed the address,” she told HHCN. “We don’t see how having home addresses enhances quality of care.”
Read the law here.
Written by Maggie Flynn