California won’t pay overtime to home aides after judge’s order

Home-care workers Juanita Williams, Zoila Ramirez and Bethzalie Saldana take part in a protest rally in downtown Los Angeles in 2014. The workers and their unions have fought for the right to be paid overtime.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California will not pay overtime to home aides who care for the state’s elderly and disabled after a judge overturned a federal regulation requiring it, officials announced last week.

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

The decision is a setback for home-care workers and their unions, who fought hard for the federal regulation and persuaded Gov. Jerry Brown to include the funds in the state 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, approved by the U.S. Department of Labor and scheduled to take effect earlier this month, 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 be done only through an act of Congress, Leon wrote in his order.

“The Department is trying to do through regulation what must be done through legislation,” he wrote.

In a statement, the Department of Labor said it disagreed and was “considering all of our legal options.”

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


Regardless of the judge’s order, union officials want members to be paid overtime for more than 40 hours worked in a week, noting that the money is already budgeted.

“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, called the state’s decision “shameful.”

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

Representatives for Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said Friday that the leaders would be examining the issue.

John Casey, a spokesman for Atkins, said the speaker has been supportive of overtime and wants the best deal for home-care workers, but “the court ruling threw a wrench” into the state’s plans.


Twitter: @chrismegerian