The New York Times wrote yesterday about the hard work and low pay home attendants endure while working 24 hour shifts. For years, Beranbaum Menken LLP Partner Jason Rozger has championed the cause of underpaid home attendants. Most recently, Mr. Rozger argued on behalf of a putative class of home attendants before New York’s highest court, which is referenced in the article.
The Times article described Marjorie, a caring and dedicated home attendant who performs an essential job but is woefully underpaid. The New York State Department of Labor, abetted by the Court of Appeals, allows home attendants to be paid far less than the minimum wage for working 24 hour shifts, if they get three uninterrupted hours for meals, and 8 hours of sleep, of which 5 is uninterrupted. The Times article includes this, but does not mention that getting less than the required sleep or meal time is a “hair trigger,” which if set off, requires a home attendant to be paid for all sleep and meal time. Thus, getting 2 hours and 59 minutes of meal breaks means the entire three hours must be paid; getting 4 hours and 59 minutes of uninterrupted sleep means all 8 sleep hours must be paid.
As depicted in the Times article, Marjorie worked a 19 hour day without a break, and was interrupted in the middle of the night to care for her patient. Under these circumstances, she would have a claim for the minimum wage for all 24 hours. Any home attendant in this situation should assert their rights to be paid the wages they deserve. Only when a critical mass of workers do so will the agencies - and the state that funds them - treat home attendants with the respect they deserve.