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Major overhaul in wage and overtime to domestic workers

As of January 1, 2015, a new federal law will go into effect extending minimum wage and overtime pay to domestic workers. The law will provide major benefits in care for the elderly and for disabled Americans, who will now fall under the purview of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which maintains the country's wage and hour laws.

Spokespersons for the rule stated the regulation's delayed effective date is in order to give families relying on home health care professionals enough time to prepare for the changes. Labor representatives state that most workers already make minimum wage but are not protected by overtime pay during a normal work week. In many states, these home care workers have been excluded from typical wage and hour laws. One deputy administrator of the labor department claims this new rule will help stabilize our economy.

According to government statistics, although home care workers may make more than minimum wage, almost half of them are eligible for government assistance programs. The majority of them are female, Latino or African-Americans. Labor Secretary P?rez issued a statement contending that the new federal regulation will protect home care workers and protect the rights of house-bound individuals.

Opponents of the ruling are concerned the new changes will affect those on government assistance and result in increased costs and fewer jobs. A representative for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice has expressed concern that higher costs in home care will result in less quality care for higher pay.

Proponents counter by saying these consequences have not been felt in those states now enforcing overtime and minimum wage protection to domestic workers. The final ruling has come after a long and arduous period of negotiations.

The law does not cover babysitting or other companionship services. It will allow a care provider to receive minimum wage and overtime protections for hours worked beyond twenty hours a week and performing assistance with daily routines such as bathing, dressing and grooming. Live-in helpers are exempt from overtime pay but must be paid the minimum federal hourly wage.

People who provide these valuable services for our loved ones should be protected from unfair pay practices. Now the government is saying it agrees.

nytimes.com, "U.S. to Include Home Care Aides in Wage and Overtime Law" Steven Greenhouse, Sep. 17, 2013

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