On September 17, 2013, the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced a final rule which will extend the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions to home health care workers.
The new rule will take effect January 1, 2015, and will apply to all home care workers, such as certified nursing assistants, home health aides, and personal care aides, who work for a home health agency. The new rule will also apply to workers employed directly by the family of the elderly or ill person if they primarily perform medical duties or if they primarily perform domestic duties that benefit other household members. Workers employed directly by a client’s family and who provide companionship services, such as playing cards, visiting with neighbors or engaging in hobbies, will remain exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections.
According to the DOL, the rule will bring nearly two million home health and personal care workers under the protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The new rule is intended to give home care workers parity with direct care workers who work in institutional, rather than home based settings, and to ensure that direct care workers are available to elderly people who want to remain in their homes. The DOL has found that the home care industry has grown dramatically over the last several decades as more Americans choose to receive long-term care at home instead of in nursing homes or other facilities.
The primary impact of the rule will be overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. The rule will also likely impact certain travel time, such as where a worker travels between the homes of more than one client during the day on behalf of the same home health agency, or drives the person he or she assists to medical appointments, on errands, etc. The DOL considers this travel time to be all in a day’s work and therefore compensable.