U.S. judge rejects overtime for home health aides

Unions fought for overtime for home care workers, but California yanks extra pay after court decision

California will not award overtime to home aides who care for the state's elderly and disabled after a judge overturned a federal regulation requiring the higher pay, officials announced  Thursday.

By not paying overtime and some related benefits, the state stands to save $183.6 million from its general fund over the next six months, and an additional $314.2 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. 

But the decision is a setback for home care workers and their unions, who fought hard for the federal regulation and successfully convinced Gov. Jerry Brown to include the funds in the budget.

"There’s no federal regulations requiring us to [pay overtime], so the state is not doing it," said Michael Weston, spokesman for the California Department of Social Services.

The overtime rules, which were approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, were overturned by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Awarding extra pay to 2 million home care workers nationwide can only be done through an act of Congress, Leon wrote in his order.

In a statement Wednesday, the Department of Labor said it disagrees and is "considering all of our legal options."

California's In-Home Supportive Services program pays 400,000 workers to care for 490,000 low-income elderly and disabled residents, keeping them out of more expensive nursing homes.

Union officials said they wanted overtime pay regardless of the judge's order, noting that Brown and lawmakers agreed to include the money in the budget.

"Home care providers throughout the state will be working together to hold the governor to his commitment as the judge's ruling does not prohibit the state from fulfilling its promise of overtime," Jon Youngdahl, executive director of the Service Employees International Union California State Council, said in a statement.

Allison Padgett, spokeswoman for the United Domestic Workers of America, said the state’s decision was “shameful.”

“Our state’s caregivers are often living at the poverty level, and they’re just trying to make ends meets while trying to help some of our most vulnerable residents live with dignity,” she said.

Follow @chrismegerian for more updates from Sacramento.

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