In a move that will affect home health care workers in Kentucky and the other states, the Department of Labor recently announced the enactment of a new rule that will give them minimum wage and overtime protections. While most hourly workers are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are some exceptions, thanks to a “companionship exemption” enacted in 1975. The companionship exemption applies to workers who provided companionship services for individuals who were unable to care for themselves. Since that time, the home health care industry has grown at a fast pace and is expected to grow 70% bigger by 2020, but in the process, home health care workers have woefully low yearly incomes — the median annual income was just over $20,000 per year in 2010. This is despite the fact that home health care workers may work up to 60 hours per week, including overnight stays.
Now thanks to the rule, which takes effect in January 2015, all home health care workers will need to be paid 1.5 times their hourly rate for every hour they work beyond 40 in a week, or eight in a day. It will be a life changer, given that even with their long hours, many home health care workers must still work one or two other jobs to make ends meet. The move was applauded by President Obama, who claimed that it would rectify an injustice for those who did “heroic, hard work.”
It could also be of benefit to Kentuckians who rely on home health care workers. Given the poor reputation of the state’s nursing homes, home health care as an option is even more important. While some might complain about the rise in cost, wage-and-hour protections could also lead to more competent, motivated service. If workers don’t have to work a second job to make ends meet, that allows them to be more energetic and attentive on the job, for those who need them.
In general, under the FLSA, workers who are paid by the hour should receive 1.5 times their salary after eight hours a day and two times their salary if they work more than 12 hours a day. The FLSA also has distinct protections for vacation time, meal breaks, and other fundamental aspects of working life. Many occupations do not clearly fall under the “hourly” or “salary” heading, but you are considered to be salary — and thus exempt from FLSA protections — if you earn more than $455 per week and are considered to be executive, administrative, or professional. Many employers try to cheat and place people who should be hourly in the “salary” category so they don’t need to pay overtime. If you work for an employer who refuses to pay your fair wages even though your job is protected under the FLSA, contact a Kentucky wage and hour attorney as soon as possible to learn your options.
Charles W. Miller & Associates is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.