Home-care agencies are one of the fastest growing segments in an otherwise miserable economic environment and some Senators are voicing concerns of whether home-care workers should be entitled to overtime and minimum-wage protection. In a letter to U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Hilda Solis, a group of 15 senators led by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has encouraged the Department to use its broad authority to interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to extend wage and hour laws to home health care workers.
Though most domestic workers are covered under FLSA, an exemption to that law has been interpreted by the DOL to exclude home care workers. This past June marked the two-year anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Department’s interpretation, making clear that the Department has broad authority to interpret FLSA.
“In the three decades since the exemption was created, the numbers of home care workers and their responsibilities have expanded dramatically as the population has aged and more and more people are choosing long-term care services in their homes rather than in institutions. Home care, increasingly, has become not casual work performed by a friend or family member but a full-time regular type of employment,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is critical that these professional workers, who provide essential services to our nation’s elderly and disabled, have the same right to minimum wage and overtime pay as enjoyed by other workers.”