An uneasy sense of deja vu is building among advocates for nearly 2 million workers who help the elderly and disabled live independently in their homes.
Because of a 38-year-old amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, home health aides and personal care aides in many states can be paid less than the federal minimum wage – $7.25 an hour – and not receive overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week.
Enacted by Congress in 1974, the “companionship services exemption” was supposed to exclude baby-sitters and casual companions for the elderly from overtime and minimum wage requirements, not to waive federal pay guidelines for professional caregivers.
So after years of failed efforts to change the guidelines, President Barack Obama in December announced plans to modify the exemption and extend overtime and minimum wage protections to home-care workers employed by private companies.
Nearly 1.8 million workers in 29 states would likely see a pay boost under the proposal, according to government estimates.
But after twice extending the public comment period, the U.S. Department of Labor has yet to finalize the rule change, which must be approved by the White House and then published in the National Register before it takes effect.