Direct-care workers win battle for minimum wage

The Department of Labor has issued a rule to change the “companion exemption” and bring millions of home care workers under the minimum wage requirements. The rule will make it illegal to pay home care workers less than minimum wage or to force them to work overtime.

Prior to the new rule, most home care workers were classified as “companions” rather than hirees, and therefore were excluded from national minimum wage requirements and forced-overtime protections. Many occupational workforce groups have argued that the classification placed home health workers in the same category as babysitters, limiting both their pay equity and their rights.

The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, which represents both elder-care and disability services, hails the new rule as “a tremendous victory for home care aides, a workforce earning near-poverty wages while providing vital personal care and health-related services to America’s elders and people living with disabilities.”

Others view the new rule as superfluous; 21 states have already passed minimum wage requirements and protections against forced overtime for direct-care workers. Some even fear the new rule will jeopardize direct-care workers’ employment, forcing those who hire them to cut back on hours to make up for the increased wages.

The direct-care workforce, which includes home care aides, nursing aides and personal care aides, is expected to surge to nearly 5 million by 2020, nearly double its 2010 numbers, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The new rule will take effect in January 2015. The Department of Labor has created a Web portal to provide information about the rule at

Related story: Home care aides: Caught between the labor lines

Topics: Advocacy , Executive Leadership , Medicare/Medicaid , Regulatory Compliance