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HARKIN, KENNEDY INTRODUCE BILL TO PUT HOME CARE WORKERS ON EQUAL FINANCIAL FOOTING WITH OTHER DOMESTIC WORKERS

September 19, 2007

HARKIN, KENNEDY INTRODUCE BILL TO PUT HOME CARE WORKERS ON EQUAL FINANCIAL FOOTING WITH OTHER DOMESTIC WORKERS

About 90 percent of home care workers are women making an average of just $9 an hour

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A longtime advocate for workers’ rights, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today introduced legislation to ensure that home care workers receive the same minimum wage and overtime protections as most other domestic workers do. The Fair Home Health Care Act of 2007 extends the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to home care workers to ensure these caregivers receive fair pay.

As America faces a shortage of qualified home care workers, this new legislation will help to meet Americans’ growing demand for home-based health care by protecting those who provide it. This bill is co-sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA),  Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Barack Obama (D-IL), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Older Americans and people with disabilities are requiring help at home now more than ever, creating a high demand for qualified domestic care workers,” Senator Harkin said. “Our bill allows these employees to do their jobs under the same rules that cover others. This is not only the fair thing to do, but it is the smart and necessary action we need to ensure that Americans have first-rate care.”

“The Fair Home Health Care Act will end the exploitation of home care workers who have been denied federal minimum wage and overtime protections for too long,” Senator Kennedy said. “Guaranteeing fair pay for these workers will help them support their own families and encourage them to provide the best possible home care that millions of Americans depend on.”

All home care workers who are employed by a home care agency, work more than 20 hours a week, or perform home care on a regular basis would be covered by the Fair Home Health Care Act. This bill is being introduced to fix a Supreme Court ruling in June that upheld a Department of Labor regulation that stated that home health care workers are not protected by the FLSA, which was expanded to cover most domestic workers in 1974.

“The need to ensure home care workers are treated fairly unites two issues that are very close to my heart – independence and the quality of life for seniors and people with disabilities, and the basic rights of American workers to premium pay for overtime work,” Harkin said. “Both service providers and the people that they serve agree: no one is served well when home care workers are not paid a living wage. Seniors and people with disabilities deserve continuous relationships with home care aides that they can trust to deliver the care that they need.”

Currently, more than one million home care workers in the United States provide physically and emotionally demanding and often life-sustaining care for the elderly and disabled in their homes. Eighty-six percent of direct care workers turn over every year. Almost 90 percent of homecare workers are women, and they are predominantly minority women, making an average of just $9 an hour.