For decades, home health aides – those who provide care to elderly and disabled patients in their homes – have been excluded from our national minimum wage and overtime laws, allowing staffing companies to pay these workers pennies on the dollar, including for grueling 24-hour shifts. This is all about to change, as the Department of Labor announced today that these workers will finally be treated with the respect they deserve.
These workers had been purposefully excluded from the law by the so-called “companionship exemption.” The exemption was initially intended to allow people to hire, say, the local neighborhood teenager to babysit without having to pay the minimum wage. However, the term “companion” was expanded to include home health aides, as though the invaluable service they provide – feeding, preparing meals, cleaning, changing bedsheets, administering medicine – were little more than “companionship.” The reality is, though, that millions of Americans are attempting to support entire families on the income of a home health aide. Now they have a fighting chance to do so.
Read more about this momentous development here: