The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act [S. 1273/H.R. 2341] – a bill that would help create a more stable, valued direct care workforce was introduced on 6/23/2011, by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA). Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were also original co-sponsors of the Senate bill. The House bill had twenty-one original co-sponsors. This legislation takes major steps towards ensuring the health, autonomy and well-being of more than 13 million Americans with long-term care needs today and an estimated 27 million by 2050.
The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include basic labor protections for home care workers. Currently, FLSA covers domestic service workers and most direct care workers in institutional settings such as nursing homes; however, the law continues to exclude home care workers from basic minimum wage and overtime protections.
In addition to extending wage and overtime protections for home care workers, The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act would:
- Establish data collection and reporting requirements to monitor important workforce indicators such as size, compensation levels, turnover rates and vacancies.
- Improve the recruitment and retention of direct care workers by providing grants to states to expand and support efforts aimed at recruiting, training and retaining an adequate supply of direct care workers.
Under current regulations, most home health care workers who perform companionship services in or about the private home of the person by whom he/she is employed are exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. The current regulation has previously been upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Long Island Care at Home, LTD. v. Coke
To read more about the proposed legislation click here.
According to a press release, Senator Tom Harkin and 14 other U.S. senators have sent a letter to the DOL urging the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, to “use its broad authority to interpret the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to extend wage and hour laws to home health care workers.
Though most domestic workers are covered under FLSA, an exemption to that law has been interpreted by the DOL to exclude home care workers. Today marks the two-year anniversary of a Supreme Court ruling that upheld the Department’s interpretation, making clear that the Department has broad authority to interpret FLSA.
In the three decades since the exemption was created, the numbers of home care workers and their responsibilities have expanded dramatically as the population has aged and more and more people are choosing long-term care services in their homes rather than in institutions. Home care, increasingly, has become not casual work performed by a friend or family member but a full-time regular type of employment,” wrote the lawmakers. “It is critical that these professional workers, who provide essential services to our nation’s elderly and disabled, have the same right to minimum wage and overtime pay as enjoyed by other workers.”
To read the full text of the letter from the senators, go to IOWAPOLITICS.com.