Home-Care Workers Are Now Protected by Minimum-Wage Laws

A day in the life of a home health-care worker is rough, but intensely intimate: from dawn to dusk, helping seniors take their pills, feeding the wheelchair-bound, occasionally serving as mental-health counselor, physical therapist, or first responder to people with disabilities. Their daily grind occurs far outside the world of politics most days, but home-care aides made an unusually public appearance this week at the Supreme Court by definitively claiming their labor rights. The White House’s extension of federal minimum-wage and overtime standards to this vital but often invisible workforce cleared its last legal hurdle and settled a longstanding legal dispute—laden with patriarchal tradition and gender stereotypes—over whether their work was real work.

The Court’s decision to deny certiori in the case Home Care Association of America v. Weil effectively upholds a lower-court ruling validating a regulatory expansion launched by the Obama administration last year, which extends protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to home-care workers. The policy change builds on earlier reforms in the 1970s, which granted parallel protections to domestic workers who had been exempted from the original Depression era wage-and-hour laws. The new rule further closes the loophole for home-care jobs, also typically done by women of color, which have steadily professionalized over the years. Home care for seniors and people with disabilities had lagged behind due to an obscure exemption deeming them mere “companions.” The new rule upgrades conditions across the fast-growing health-care profession, which is now poised to absorb an oncoming “gray wave” of active Baby Boomers who are committed to “aging in place” in their communities.

– The Nation

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