The Labor Department on Tuesday announced a new rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to nearly 2 million direct care workers.
The new rule would apply to workers such as home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants, and will take effect Jan. 1, 2015.
These workers would now be covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Previously, these positions were exempt because they fell under the “companionship services” category, which includes baby-sitters.
But labor officials and the Obama administration said these types of jobs have become increasingly professionalized.
“Today we are taking an important step toward guaranteeing that these professionals receive the wage protections they deserve while protecting the right of individuals to live at home,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement.
Tuesday’s announcement is viewed as a victory for labor, which has been trying to organize these types of workers to seek workplace protections.
In a statement, Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest labor federation, lauded the move.
“The rule issued today by the U.S. Department of Labor finally recognizes the value of the work done by millions of people who take care of our aging parents as well as our sisters, brothers and children with disabilities,” Trumka said. “Congress intended that these hard-working individuals, whose labor is often physically and emotionally demanding, have the protection of our nation’s most basic labor standards – the right to be paid a minimum wage and receive more for working overtime.”
Business leaders had previously said that the rule change would make home healthcare services more expensive.
Laura Fortman, principal deputy administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, said that 15 states already extend these protections to direct care workers and have not seen a negative impact as a result.
Fortman said that delaying the rule implementation until 2015 will give health insurers, businesses and others time to adjust to the change.
The rule applies to workers who perform medically-related services, the Labor Department said. Workers who are employed primarily for companionship will still be considered exempt from minimum wage and overtime protections.