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Are Home Care Workers Entitled to at Least Minimum Wage?

Believe us, we were surprised, too.

Under the “companionship exemption” to the American Labor law, 2.5 million people who work in the home helping the elderly and disabled don’t have to be paid minimum wage. They also are excluded from receiving time-and-a-half for working overtime.

That was supposed to change. December of last year, Obama held a press conference along with several home care workers to announce the administration would extend minimum wage protections to them. A year later, however, nothing has changed–the plan is caught up in federal red tape. Ironically, the proposal was part of an economic plan called, “We Can’t Wait.”

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Since that press conference a year ago, home workers’ wages have declined in several states, according to an open letter to the president from the same female workers who stood with him at the press conference.

“Home care remains one of our nations fastest-growing but lowest paid occupations,” the letter said. “Wages have long stagnated, and since December, have even declined in some states, forcing more workers and their families to rely on public assistance.” They say the industry turnover is as high as 60% because of poor working conditions. And high turnover costs home care companies money, since they have to retrain workers.

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