Currently, home healthcare workers –who provide health care services to people in their homes– are considered exempt from federal overtime and minimum wage regulations. The exemption was originally intended to exempt babysitters and the like, but has expanded overtime to encompass home health aides. These workers often work extremely long hours, providing critical care to the sick and elderly, and yet current law allows them to be paid less than the minimum wage, with no overtime – even if they work around-the-clock shifts. Late last year the Department of Labor proposed a change in the law, which would be a step towards closing this loophole. If the proposal passes, it would only exempt those people working in a house, employed by the family or household itself. That means staffing agencies, through whom most people employ home health aides, would be required to pay the minimum wage and overtime.
The public response so far has been overwhelming, with 9,800 public comments submitted on the proposal, many by professionals in the health or legal fields, most in favor of the change. We would like to add our voice to that – this change is long overdue. The roughly two million home health workers in the United States – who take care of our nation’s most vulnerable population – deserve to be protected and deserve to be paid.