February 11, 2012

Home Care Workers Still Excluded From Minimum Wage & Overtime Protection

by Levin & Perconti

Money makes the world go round. While there are many fair critiques of this old cliché, it is undeniable that financial incentives are at the root of many individual and business decisions. The Illinois nursing home neglect lawyers at our firm know that is definitely true when it comes to the long-term care industry. Our repeated complaints about the distorting effects of financial incentives should not be taken as a naïve approach to business. Of course we understand that the goal of all private industries, including privately-run nursing homes, is to turn a profit for shareholders and investors.

However, working to turn a profit is not the same as sacrificing everything—including the well-being of seniors—in pursuit of that goal. There comes a point where responsibility to those counting on ones services should at least factor into the services provided. Unfortunately, considering that so many cases of nursing home neglect and abuse can be traced back to finances in one way or another, many owners fail to do anything that might mean they make a little less money.

Perhaps the most important example of this is understaffing. So much nursing home mistreatment is rooted in not having enough caregivers around to perform everything that needs to be done in a timely manner. When these workers are stretched too thin, it is almost inevitable that some preventable instance of nursing home neglect will occur at some point. Sadly, many owners prefer to deal with the consequences of the harm that befalls the resident instead of committing the resources at the beginning to properly staff the facility and prevent the harm in the first place.

Not only are there often too few employees, but in some elder caregiving situations, those employees maybe drastically underpaid. As reported in a post this week at Moms Rising, home care workers continue to be excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime laws. These care workers often allow a senior to stay in their home, providing services like bathing, dressing, shopping, medication management, and transportation for seniors. Amazingly, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, these workers do not have to be paid a minimum wage or be provided overtime pay.

Fortunately, the Obama administration has proposed new regulations to include home care workers in these standards. The Department of Labor is soliciting comment on the new rules until the end of the month. The Department may finally overturn this misguided policy at the end of that time.

Our Illinois nursing home lawyers know that underpaying workers is a recipe for mistreatment just as understaffing is. Basic fairness seems to demand that these important caregivers be on the same playing field as all other workers. We urge federal policymakers to correct this egregious oversight and ensure these caregivers are paid properly. In addition, local family members who are considering different at-home services should be sure to learn about the wage practices of the businesses they are considering. The quality of the care their loved one receives depends exclusively on the merit of the employees who will actually visit the home and provide the needed help. Use of fair employment strategies influences the worker’s well-being and the quality of the services they provide.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

New Wage Regulations for Senior Home Care Workers

Home Health Care Employment Practices Largely Unregulated