Elimination of the companion exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act

The Federal Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to Domestic Service which, if put into effect, will seriously reduce the take-home pay of countless numbers of homecare workers such as I, and make the lives of the people with disabilities we assist less manageable.

The changes would require the payment of minimum wage to homecare workers and mandate that homecare workers must receive time and a half pay for every hour over 40 hours per week of work done. Medicaid/Medicare would bear most of the burden.

This proposal sounds like it would be a major victory for me and my fellow homecare workers, right? But where is the money to pay for this? If the law says we can’t work without minimum wage or time and a half pay but the money’s not there, then we won’t be allowed to work those hours!

That means, instead of increasing our take-home pay, the proposal will slash all hours beyond 40 per week of our pay. For a worker currently working 48 hours per week, that’s 416 hours and $4,742.40 per year he or she will lose.

And workers who currently put in 84 hours per week will suffer a 44 hour loss — over half their pay!

Healthcare insurance will also be harder to qualify for since it’s based on the number of hours worked.

As a result, many workers will be forced to seek out second or third jobs to make up the loss.
And, for the people we assist, their lives will be harder. They will endure a reduction in homecare hours or will have to tolerate more workers coming in and out of their homes or pay an unavoidably higher deductable for the service or be forced to hire nonprofessionals. That means more poorly paid people in their homes with even less incentive to do a good job. Many people with disabilities have a hard enough time right now managing their assistants. Add to that an increase in the co-pay and the added strain will force many to give up and move into nursing homes.

It is certain that the nursing home industry will benefit from this proposal; along with the homecare unions, which will receive more dues-paying members even as all the members’ average standard-of-living declines. Even the most poorly-paid worker in a closed shop is required to turn over at least $25.10 per month in union dues. That’s a windfall for union coffers even as the average standard of living of the workers plummets.

And why should the unions support home care workers when the average nursing home worker, a nurse’s aide, pays more dues than a home care worker?

What can we do? We can demand that, before this proposal is put into effect, funding for it be allocated and in place to begin payment immediately. Finding this money won’t be easy. The federal government is 16 trillion dollars in debt (that’s $16,000,000,000,000: a lot of zeros!) The states and municipalities aren’t doing much better. But, until we are shown the money, this proposal is nothing but a shell game which promises a reward but leaves us worse off than before.

Please, my brothers and sisters, before too many of you fall for this pie-in-the-sky scheme, before the DOL proposal is shoved onto us, we must see the money.

Contact the White House (202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414). Tell them, before they end the overtime exemption, first SHOW US THE MONEY!

By Philip Bennett

The writer is a Board Member of Disabled In Action of Metro NY.

Please contact Philip Bennett at:

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