NEW YORK, June 30, 2015 – Caring Across Generations applauds the U.S. Department of Labor for proposing new improvements to overtime rules that will allow many more hard-working people to receive the fair income they’ve earned and to better support their families and loved ones.
In particular, the new overtime rule will provide some badly needed relief to millions of women and men who are part of the sandwich generation — the growing number of working caregivers squeezed between caring for their children while providing care for an aging parent. Being able to collect overtime pay for long hours at work can help families better grapple with the rising costs of care, as well as allow extra time for people to spend with family members who need support.
However, as we celebrate this progress, it’s urgent to note that there continue to be two million home care workers who are excluded from any overtime protections at all, as well as other basic labor protections like the right to minimum wage. In 2013, the Department of Labor announced that it would grant home care workers the right to minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Due to a lawsuit brought by for-profit home care industry associations that will be resolved this summer or fall, millions of home care workers remain in limbo.
“I have been a homecare worker for six years, and I do not get any overtime despite how little I’m paid,” said D’Rosa Davis, a member of the Atlanta Chapter of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations campaign. “It’s $9 per hour no matter how many hours I work and no matter how many years I have been on the job. Earning so little means I can’t do much with my kids — and that breaks my heart. I deserve overtime protections, and so do two million other workers.”
Today’s proposal for salaried workers addresses a rule which has only been updated once since the 1970s. The shameful exclusion of home care and domestic workers dates all the way back to the 1930s — and is in part a legacy of racial inequality and slavery. It is well past time to right historic wrongs and to ensure our policies reflect the realities of the 21st century. We shouldn’t leave an entire group of low-wage workers behind, stuck with poverty wages and denied basic rights. The women and men who do the vital work of helping us and our loved ones age with dignity and live independently at home deserve the same basic protections as every other worker.
Background on home care workers’ exclusion from the Fair Labor Standards Act:
Our nation’s signature federal worker protection law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, was enacted in 1930 and excluded all domestic workers from basic labor protections due to racial bias. When the law was updated in the 1970s, home care workers were still left out.
As a result of this exclusion, one in four home care workers live below the federal poverty level, and more than half rely on public assistance programs to support their families. The low wages paid to home care workers are a major factor contributing to the high turnover rate in the industry, which averages about 50 percent nationwide every year.
The nation’s home care workers were going to be almost uniformly entitled to overtime pay as of January 1, 2015 due to the Department of Labor changes. However, a court case brought by home care industry groups has delayed the implementation of these crucial protections for home care workers, causing most home care workers to continue to labor without any overtime and minimum wage protections.