The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that America’s home care workers are not entitled to overtime pay. The unanimous decision came in the case of Evelyn Coke, a 73 year-old retiree of the service industry, who sought to overturn a Labor Department regulation, written in 1975, that excludes home care workers from overtime pay.
There are almost a million home care workers in the United States, and this position continues to be one of the lowest-paying in the entire service industry. This is primarily because overtime pay is not available.
But the home care industry predicts that paying time-and-a-half for hours in excess of 40 per week would cost billions.
“When you try to apply traditional labor law to this home-care scenario it’s really pretty impractical,” said Paul R. Hogan, founder of an Omaha, Neb.-based firm providing home health care services. “Many seniors need long hours of companionship, even overnights,” said Hogan. “If the exemption is eliminated the cost of service would go so high it would drive many senior into the gray market where they would be hiring home care workers directly. There would be no screening, no training, no supervision and no backup.”
The reasons for upholding the Labor Department’s overtime pay regulations are not only economic, but also humanitarian ~ with the interests of those who need health care being placed before the interests of those who provide it.
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