Judge Rules America’s Fastest Growing Industry Is Exempt From Minimum Wage Law

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Home-Care-Aide

The term wage slavery is a pejorative term used to criticize economic exploitation and social stratification affecting large groups of a workforce. Wage slavery is a result of unequal bargaining power between labor and capital best represented by workers slaving for long hours and poverty wages in sweatshops. Republicans have given every indication that between their opposition to raising the minimum wage, and desire to abolishing it altogether, nothing would please them or their Chamber of Commerce and corporate funders more than a population earning slave wages.

It is likely that most big industries would love nothing more than having Republicans pass legislation exempting them from paying the minimum wage and, despite the nation’s labor laws, one of the fastest growing, lowest paying industries in the nation succeeded in not only winning an exemption from paying minimum wage, they were exempted from overtime laws. One law, 1974’s Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), requires American employers to pay their domestic workers at least the minimum wage as well as extra pay for overtime hours. Earlier in the year, the Department of Labor expanded FLSA to cover home care providers who were left out of minimum wage and overtime laws due to industry leaders designating their work as nothing but providing “fellowship” for elderly sick and disabled people.

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The home care industry interpreted the exemption broadly  to deny basic labor rights from all their employees who provide medical care, feed, clothe, and bathe Americans too sick to care for themselves. In 2007, the conservative Supreme Court ruled that an employer forcing a woman to work extremely long hours was within its right to refuse giving overtime pay because regardless the extent of the care the woman provided, it was designated “fellowship and protection.” The Department of Labor issued a new rule forbidding the practice beginning January 1, 2015.

On Monday, just in time to stop implementation of the Department of Labor’s rule change, a U.S. District Judge, Richard Leon, bowed to industry pressure and struck down the change that would finally give minimum wage and overtime pay protections to home care workers. While the Labor Department’s rule change was meant to protect worker’s rights, the Judge protected Home Care Associates, the International Franchise Association, and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice rights to make bigger profits. The rapidly-growing industry’s leaders convinced the judge that paying the minimum wage, and the outrageous idea of overtime pay, was an abomination and would have a “destabilizing impact” on the nation’s fastest-growing  industry.

According to the judge’s  ruling, home care workers who are employed by agencies and other third-party employers can legally be denied the minimum wage and overtime pay if “agencies and third-party employers” claim the workers provide “fellowship” rather than more in-depth care. Workers employed by agencies can also be denied overtime pay. The only thing the “agencies, third-party employers” and judge did not decide, yet, is that home health care providers have to work for free; but that is likely the next logical step in the very near future to avoid the “destabilizing the impact” on the industry of having to pay its employees at all.

Although home care workers make up one of the fastest-growing industries in America with an aging population, they are clearly one of the lowest paid. The workforce’s median wage is about $20,000 a year, and it represents a 5% income decline since 2003 after adjusting for inflation. Like an ever-growing number of American workers, because they are prohibited from earning the federal minimum wage, most workers live below the federal poverty line. In fact, about a third of workers in New York City earn less than $15,000 annually, and clearly 40% of them are dependent on vanishing public benefits just to survive; it is the epitome of a slave wage workforce.

Even if the home care workforce could earn the federal minimum of $7.25 hourly, they still could not support themselves.  Subsequently they have joined forces with the growing fast food worker movement protesting for a minimum raise increase of $15.00 per hour. The work home care providers toil at can be long, grueling, and constant and not, as the industry claims providing “fellowship and protect;” like a babysitter. One home care provider who has worked for the same mentally disabled client for ten years giving around-the-clock care for 199 hours every two weeks complained she  has never had a penny of overtime pay. She said, “The work I do is not companionship or babysitting,” but because the industry designates her as providing “fellowship” for the  she barely subsists in poverty, and she is not alone.

As the population ages, the number of home healthcare providers will grow by 70% within the next five years. As of early 2014, there were 2.5 million home care providers barely surviving due to working without minimum wage or overtime pay which is why the Department of Labor made the rule change. The real issue is that despite the explosion in available jobs, the demand for home health care providers will far outpace supply within the next decade and better wages and worker protections would make the difficult jobs more appealing. However, like fast food and large retail chains like Walmart and McDonald’s, the home healthcare industry will never voluntarily raise wages.

President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage to no avail, and in the recent midterm elections, voters in four states overwhelmingly approved raising the minimum wage. But the same voters also elected  Republicans to Congress who have, ad nauseum, stated they have no interest or intent on raising the minimum and a growing number are in favor of abolishing the federal minimum. In fact, last year House Republicans passed so-called “jobs legislation” abolishing overtime pay, and several Republican states banned current and future legislation raising the minimum wage, offering sick leave, and sick pay.

Americans want higher wages for their increased, and world-leading, productivity, but they will never get it as long as Republicans hold a majority in either house of Congress. Americans are also aging and at the rate Republican governors and legislatures are raiding pensions, lusting to slash Social Security, and keep home care providers at poverty levels, many of those aging Americans are going to be on their own because Republicans and the home care industry avidly believe the path to prosperity is a population mired in wage slavery.

24 Replies to “Judge Rules America’s Fastest Growing Industry Is Exempt From Minimum Wage Law”

  1. I hope this appealed to a higher court. I started out as a CNA. After about 10 years, which also included home health aide, I decided to become a nurse. I became a LPN/LVN for about 5 years, then became a RN in 2008.
    This judge needs his d**k cut off, cuz that’s the head he made his ruling with. I hope this ruling is appealed all the way to the SCOTUS, if need be, though that makes me nervous. Nurses and CNA’s, HHA’s do the hard work that physicians never do. It’s back breaking work. Many patients are obese, have lost their lower extremities, and cannot aide us when turning….The HHA are already underpaid, we all are, our pay should be higher.
    If you Don want to pay a living wage to those that tend to the sick and dying, the industry will suffer. Nurses are already retiring, who started their careers in the 1960’s. I retired because of burn out.
    Low pay means the medical industry will attract those who shouldn’t be in the industry, and this is not acceptable.

  2. I have to continue this here. Furthermore, it discuss me that the healthcare industry is pushing for this. They pressured the judge? I’m disgusted that this judge did not have the balls to rule correctly. The healthcare industry makes $$$$$ in profits every year, this is just more greed by the corporations.

  3. Our Hospice caretakers made $10 an hour and mileage. The company billed Medicare $20. They came 3x a week for about 2 hours. The RN came once a week to take vitals and check skin and measure the legs for muscle deterioration. Or to give shots if they were needed, refill Rx’s The doctor came once a month or two. I can guarantee they charged much more. As well as the social worker who did nothing of benefit. Same with a cleaning woman. She got $10 but the patient was billed $20. I got 2 hours a week. She changed the beds, cleaned the bathrooms and vacuumed the floors….down the middle. No deep cleaning. I had a grant and didn’t pay anything. I now have the same girl and pay her $15 and the house is not cleaned like I want or would do if I could do it. The caretakers are LPN’s. I had to show them what to do. One of the cleaning gals was a school janitor. I had to show her how to make a bed! She just vacuumed a path and had never waxed a kitchen floor. They said they took classes!

  4. God bless all the caregivers who have been there, sacrificing their own holiday to spend with those(and their families)who are in need. I speak from experience. And I will stand up for the minimum wage and more.

  5. Seldom say anything about good elderly care. Got me into a 4 year court battle and cost me 1000s in lawyers fees and faced profanity that was beyond the pale of anything in one’s 30 plus years of medical care. Just because the excellent medical care that was done those in power in this industry felt it was a threat to their pocket books. Was told at every turn that the care is needed, but to costly and will cut into profits even if it meant some dying without it. it is not about, and never will be about patient care. It is about the money and one should never forget that. Expecting anything else is living with the joke is on you. Like the movie Solent Green.. instead of waffles the green is money and this one will leave it again at that. One must never forget that when the money pie is cut up, there are two people that don’t have a napkin for even the pie crumbs left on the table.. “the patient and the bottom of that proverbial totem pole..the health care worker.

  6. The women in the picture is using a hoyer lift, which if used wrong, can severely hurt a patient. Feeding ,dressing, bathing, doing toilet hygiene (cleaning genital/anal areas) , and keeping a dependent person safe from harm is care and supervision. Its also interesting to note that most of these workers are females. Conversely the security guards who walk around the same assisted living facility these women are likely to work in, are mostly male. The males do very little hands on care and mostly just call for the assist of one of the female workers should a need arise, yet the security guards are paid overtime and protected by all labor laws. This is an egregious exploitation by a mostly female work force- women who work long hours, yet still require public assistance such as food stamps to feed their families. As an adjunct professor who taught the certification class health care providers must take to be certified to give such care I can tell you they deserve respect and living wage

  7. This sounds like a golden opportunity for people to start a healthcare businesses that pay their employees decent wages.

    If your competition is exploiting their workers and you are not, guess which ones will soon be out of business?

  8. Do you really want your health and safety to be dependent on someone who makes less than burger flippers?

    Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if it was a profession of pride and dignity?

    This is why we need to lose ‘for-profit’ life-support systems.

    Human lives are worth more than minimum wage.

  9. I see W/C claims daily in our law office. Most of these workers are severely injured WOMEN from trying to do too much physically while alone….

    Average pay: $8.50/hr in Nashville. No health insurance provided. Employers lie to employees and do not follow the laws when employees are injured. It needs reforming by progressives, not idiot Baggers who totally wrecked the tenuous W/C laws in Tennessee.

    This is what a BillionaireBoy Governor and General Assembly full of EvangeliBaggers gets you in the ‘south’.

  10. If these agencies under pay the people whose work keeps them profitable, and if they game the intent of the law by claiming ‘companionship’ or whatever, the employees need to find other employment or make arrangements with the families of the people they do care for to work for decent wages and hours. Next, these employees get together, write some legislation, lobby their Congress people and get themselves the same minimum wage as other workers in this cuontry. The judge who made this ruling is an idiot. Work is work, buddy. At the rates some of these workers make, when it comes their time to be taken care of, they won’t have any money saved for their own needs because of D–K moves like the one this judge made and these agencies
    make.

  11. My daughter is in that field of work right now. She left management at Family Dollar to get into it. She does mostly private work now and gets paid a little better because people had rather pay someone better that they know isn’t abusing their loved ones. She has been hit, kicked, bitten and a number of gross and pain filled stuff, but she loves caring for people, not just elderly. So I am a little bias when it comes to under paying these people.

  12. maybe we can start a petition drive to get him to reverse his decision and remove him from the bench, also his ruling im sure will appealed and hopefully overturned

  13. I operate a home care registry. I try to keep my rates as low as possible, so that care is affordable to the elderly person. Many of the caregivers we refer like to work well over the 40-hr a week standard. They would like to have the ability to continue to do this at the current rate they are paid which is usually $11 per hour. If they are told that the client is requesting we limit their hours to 40 after January first and add additional caregivers to the roster, so the client can continue to live at home for as long as possible, the caregivers always say they are willing to forego the overtime and keep their schedule as is. However, we will not be able to do this going forward if the companionship exemption is gone. Most clients will not be willing to pay the overtime, so most caregivers will be losing hours and will be forced to sign up with multiple registries to get the same pay they had in 2014. The clients will be forced to have additional caregivers in the home. Not good!

  14. Judge Leon was dead-on right.
    Having run a home care agency for many years, I can tell you there is no agency on earth that will ever pay an overtime wage. They will use caregivers on cases for less than 40 hours (limiting what they can earn), they will discontinue any care that would require the payment of overtime (such as live-in). The reason is that the profit margins are very low in this industry. If overtime were paid these companies will go out of business.
    Anyone who tells you otherwise is either mistaken or ignorant.
    A federal agency cannot override an act of Congress, that’s what Judge Leon said and that is the law.
    If you don’t like the law, change it!

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