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Feds to consider proposal to apply federal protections to home care aids

According to the New York Times, the Office of Management and Budget recently agreed to look over a proposal made by the Department of Labor to change companionship exemption. Companionship exemption is a term referring to a provision in the Fair Labor Standards Act which specifies that employees in the home health care industry providing "companionship services" need not be paid minimum wage or overtime for their work.

As the article points out, the move came four years after the Supreme Court ruled against a 73-year-old home care aid for the elderly. The woman had apparently sued her employer for years of unpaid overtime, which had been denied to her as she was deemed to fall under the companionship exemption.

The development is a welcome one, and a sign that the budget office is interested in looking into greater legal protection for home care workers, many of whom are females, low-income, and minorities or immigrants.

In that case, the justices agreed that the woman fell under that exemption, and that only the Labor Department or Congress had power to change the companionship provision.

The content of the proposal is not yet exactly known, but it is hoped that it contains specific language stating that home care aids are not excluded from federal labor protections.

Supporters of the provision say that the provision will improve the industry's problems with recruitment and retention, and will help keep more people out of costly nursing homes.

Source: New York Times, "Fair Pay for Hard Work," November 25, 2011.

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