Home Care Final Rule: We Won! Now What?

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For over a year, home care worker advocates had to contend with a lawsuit brought by industry groups challenging the Department of Labor’s Home Care Final Rule. This court battle delayed the Rule’s implementation and threatened to keep 2 million home care workers outside the protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. On August 21, 2015, following an appeal by the DOL, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a unanimous opinion affirming the validity of the Final Rule. The new rule became effective on October 13, 2015, when the Court of Appeals issued its mandate; the Supreme Court denied application for stay of the decision, and enforcement will begin November 12, 2015.

Caring Across Generations – comprised of a number of national advocacy organizations and state-based partners – was instrumental in securing this historic win to extend federal minimum wage and overtime protections to most home care workers. Home care employers and states must prepare now to implement the new Rule in a way that is fair to workers and meets consumers’ needs. The Department of Labor and other federal partners have said they stand ready to provide technical assistance and guidance, as have several organizations actively working to assist states and state-level advocates to understand and adapt to the new rules.

Most employers of home care workers will no longer be able to claim the companionship exemption and must also pay for time traveled between work shifts for two different consumers. For the relatively small portion of home care workers who work more than 40 hours per week, third-party employers will have the option of employing an additional worker (or workers) to provide services, or they may choose to pay time-and-a-half when a worker exceeds 40 hours in a week for one employer. Our friends at the National Domestic Workers Alliance have put together a lot of important information explaining home care workers' new rights, which you can get by clicking here.

Right now, many state agencies are preparing their initial requests for the Fiscal Year 2017 budget. You can advocate now for the additional funding necessary to comply with the Rule in your state’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget. Ask your state whether it has included anything in its Fiscal Year 2016 budget on the overtime and travel costs, and if it is not, push officials to include it. Even if the state has not completed its analysis of the projected costs, you should suggest that your state include at least an estimate in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget plans or a placeholder budget concept while final numbers are being developed.