Fed rule change brings TN home health care under minimum wage, overtime law

Tennessee’s home health care providers are sorting out the potential effects of a new federal rule that will mandate at least minimum wage and overtime pay protection for workers, reports The Tennessean.

For nearly 40 years, direct-care workers, who provide home care for people with disabilities or elderly patients, have been exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which outlines standards for minimum wage and overtime pay. Until now, these workers were placed in the same category as babysitters.

Tennessee is not one of the states that currently provides minimum wage and overtime protections to its home care workers, so the new federal rule from the U.S. Department of Labor means that Tennessee home care workers will be entitled to these wage protections for the first time, federal officials said. The new rules will go into effect in January 2015.

Most direct-care workers already receive minimum wage, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy association. The group claims, however, that the overtime pay requirement will make companionship care unaffordable for some of the population.

“By ending the companionship exemption, DOL has effectively mandated home care providers work in shorter shifts with reduced hours,” said Susan Eckerly, NFIB’s senior vice president of federal public policy, in a statement.

The theory is that under this new rule, businesses trying to cut costs will keep workers from overtime hours even if clients need more than 40 hours worth of care per week.

“At the same time, those who rely on these services can expect less personal care coupled with significantly rising prices,” Eckerly said.