Pay rule enforcement delayed
Defying pressure from business groups, the Obama administration is moving forward with a rule requiring that the nation’s estimated 2 million home health workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage as well as overtime.
However, the U.S. Labor Department announced last week that the rule, effective Jan. 1, won’t be enforced until June 30. For the six months following the enforcement deadline, the department said it would use its discretion on whether to bring enforcement actions, considering good-faith efforts by the states and home-care operators to comply with the pay rule.
For decades, home health workers have been exempted from federal pay rules. Many are older women who work long hours without benefits or overtime pay. Under the rule proposed last year, those workers must be paid the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week.
State officials and home health operators repeatedly have called for delaying or scuttling the rule, warning that it will make home care unaffordable for many families and push disabled people into nursing homes. The National Association for Home Care & Hospice has filed legal action to block the rule.
Organized labor was critical of the delay, though pleased the rule was not thrown out. “Two million workers will continue to be shut out of the most basic federal wage protections,” a number of labor groups wrote to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.
Opposing the rule, about two dozen congressional Republicans wrote to Perez to warn that state Medicaid programs haven’t had enough time or guidance to implement the rule. They said it would “significantly disrupt nonmedical, in-home personal-care services for seniors and individuals with disabilities.”