You name it, they do it: Homecare providers in their own words

by admin on January 13, 2012 · 22 comments

Homecare providers, caregivers, personal assistants – the millions of workers who provide in-home care in this country go by many names, but they all share a commitment to serving others. Unfortunately, many of these workers share something else in common: low wages. Although they provide a valuable service to many Americans, assisting their clients with daily tasks and enabling them to maintain their independence, many homecare providers do not receive minimum wage or overtime protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Many of these workers have medical training. Many regularly work more than 40 hours every week. Many are the sole breadwinners for their families. But, because the FLSA includes an exemption for “companions” – an exemption originally intended to cover “elderly sitting” similar to casual babysitting – these employees are not always fairly compensated for their work.

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on new minimum wage/overtime protections for in-home care workers at a “We Can’t Wait” event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building of the White House, Dec. 15, 2011.

President Obama recently announced his support for a rule proposed by the Department of Labor that would bring these hardworking service providers under the FLSA. After the announcement, some of our department colleagues had the opportunity to speak with homecare providers about their jobs and the importance of minimum wage and overtime. They shared their dedication to their clients, their satisfaction with their work, and the importance of being fairly compensated for their services.

Michelle Wise is an in-home supportive service provider who cares for a 74-year-old client with multiple health concerns. She loves that her work enables this person to remain independent, but acknowledges that getting paid for overtime would be extremely helpful. “I’m a single mother putting a child through college, so being paid a fair wage for work that has been done would mean a lot to our household,” she said. “San Diego County has a very high cost of living and it doesn’t go down for those of us who don’t get overtime and who are not paid for all the hours we work.”

Elva Munoz has been a homecare provider for about 10 years, and relies on her income to support her husband, who is disabled and diabetic. She frequently works more than 40 hours a week, but does not receive overtime compensation. “I do it because the clients, for me, are family,” she says. But receiving overtime “would really help me economically.”

Receiving minimum wage and overtime pay isn’t simply a matter of fair compensation, says homecare provider Elma Phillips, but one of respect. “Overtime money would go a very long way,” she says. “Just to know that you’re getting paid for overtime, and it’s not taken for granted, the hours you work – to know that it’s being recognized.”

Tracy Dudzinski works in Wisconsin, which does provide minimum wage and overtime protection for direct care workers like her, but even with the wage protections provided by the state, she sometimes struggles to make ends meet, she said. She recognizes the challenges her colleagues in other states face and believes they deserve fair compensation too. The services provided by in-home care workers extend far beyond babysitting, she said. “I’m a dietician, I’m a doctor, I’m a nurse, I’m a psychiatrist, a pharmacist, a personal chef. You name it, I do it.”

The department’s proposal would revise the Fair Labor Standards Act regulations to ensure fair pay for these women and nearly 2 million of their colleagues who provide in-home care services, ensuring that in return for their hard work they would receive the protections of minimum wage and overtime pay that nearly every employee in the United States already receives under the FLSA.

Learn more about the proposed rule by visiting http://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/companionNPRM.htm. Read Secretary Solis’ blog on the subject here.

The author, Michael Hancock is the Assistant Administrator for Policy for the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Gregg January 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm

Glad to see this story.I hope they can get protection under FSLA. My father had great in home care and we became close with them.I did’nt realize how low they were paid.
Good luck to those who do this work ,you deserve better pay and support.

2 Mariline Damron January 14, 2012 at 5:29 am

Finally! Caregivers are recognized for the care and various services we provide to the elderly, physically challenged and babies. This is a very demanding work that requires more patience than the average person. It challenges mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Just imagine being assigned to a client who Just had colon surgery. Your assignment is a five-day shift, 24/7. How many people do you know can withstand the smells of feces and urine in that time frame with out let up? Caregivers are a precious set of individuals! A rare breed indeed. Thank you for recognizing us! MD of Seattle

3 Anunturi January 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

These people deserve more. You can’t possible predict how many hours per day someone needs help. You obviously can’t let them helpless into their home so you are forced to stay overtime for the same wage. This people have families too.

4 patient appointment scheduling January 16, 2012 at 9:19 am

I think that this is a very good gesture from the president. Every worker in this country should be fairly compensated for their services. I fully support minimum wage and also overtime for workers who work longer hours than the required or agreed minimum. When effected, this will greatly motivate the workforce.

5 Cancer Care January 17, 2012 at 2:26 am

I support FLSA it will offer the protection that is needed.

6 Appliance Repair January 17, 2012 at 8:44 am

Great article!
I fear that we are getting within a year of having my mother in law move in with us. We will overnight become home caregivers.
Keep up the great work.
Thanks!

7 Jasmine Homes January 18, 2012 at 8:27 am

I find this article amazing. I have read it with curiousity, as we random seem to care or think about the million ofworkers that who provide in-home care and this is really not an easy thing to do.

8 Las Vegas Assisted Living January 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm

As an assisted living home in Las Vegas consultant, I appreciate the effort that went into this article. There are a lot of in-home caregivers that do not get the recognition that they deserve or that pay that they desire. This is truly a great thing and I hope it will pass with no problems.

9 Vector Art January 18, 2012 at 10:14 pm

For the service they provide and the overall benefit for all, they certainly deserve a higher wage.

10 coffee machine perth January 19, 2012 at 2:15 am

i appreciate your work..,
great work ..,
and thanks to president Obama who announced the great news and helped to home care center. really the workers of this committee deserve a lot.., i think, they should be rewarded by government….

11 Appliance Spare parts,Appliance Repairs,kleenmaid repairs January 21, 2012 at 12:55 am

its real truth America is a most powerful country in the world.Unfortunately, many of these workers share something else in common: low wages.

12 Rich January 27, 2012 at 10:21 am

Care providers definitely deserve more for their hard work. It’s tough to be someone who is always giving your life to someone else, it’s usually a 24/7 job to take care of people. Not to mention sometimes the cared person has a disease or is stick, that makes it even tougher.

13 Carmen - Fotografo bodas tenerife January 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Everyone deserves a fair wage. It seems a necessary proposal, carers do a great service to the citizens and they need a living wage. I hope this proposal goes well, and the President continue working on it, is a great president.

greetings.

14 Cancer Care February 5, 2012 at 2:44 am

Great article. Home care is a vital part of our healthcare system.

15 Maria | detalles de boda February 20, 2012 at 11:15 am

It is a very worthy occupation which must be sufficiently valued economically.

16 Michael February 23, 2012 at 10:52 pm

A very deserving group of workers. However, we need to remember that OT was never intended to be an employee “benefit” but rather an employer penalty to help reduce long hours at work, and also a means of increasing employment. And what about the elderly, the sick and their famlies that employ the companions. How will they be able to afford the increased costs associated with OT? Instead of developing a relationship with one caregiver, this may lead to increased use of low-paid shift workers employed by firms.

17 Bobbie Mecalo February 24, 2012 at 8:57 am

This is a complicated labor issue. It cannot be resolved with sentimental stories. It impacts workers and consumers and a host of government programs that pay for such care. Who is going to pay more for the overtime? The sick and elderly? I run a small agency, pay over min wage. My state license went up 300% last year. What’s going to happen when I have to cut worker’s hours because the old folks can’t pay more for a couple extra hours? And by the way, five of my Caregivers made more money than I did last year. Nobody’s getting rich.

18 Homecare March 5, 2012 at 3:42 am

I say the people who deserves should be paid, else the care takers would decrease day be day, as most of the care takers work because they have the passion in this work which makes them to do so. And if the caretakers are not paid accordingly, their belief from people would stay apart from their services. However, money matters everywhere now-a-days.

19 Manhattan Scout March 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm

It all sounds that great in the theory. Let’s not forget it’s just a proposal. Until the law takes into action it could take years. Though it’s nice to read that Washington has some progress in homecare.

20 Comox Homes May 9, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Home care providers and caregivers provide indispensable services and they deserve to be adequately compensated for the services that they provide in homes

21 Moving San Diego August 14, 2012 at 3:52 am

Homecare providers or caregivers really are extraordinary people that you may not think about alot, but this blog post has opened my eyes to all the hard work they do. Thanks for the valuable information.

22 Joe May 28, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Nice!

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