With numerous states pushing for a delay, the Obama administration announced Tuesday that it would put off enforcement of its plan to extend minimum-wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home-care workers.
A year ago, the Labor Department announced that the wage protections would take effect nationwide Jan. 1, 2015, but the department said Tuesday that it would not enforce the rule for six months — from Jan. 1 to June 30. For the second six months of the year, the department said, it would “exercise its discretion” in whether to bring enforcement actions against any employers that decline to pay minimum wage or overtime.
Under the new rule, home-care workers would have to receive the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour and time and a half when they work more than 40 hours a week. Numerous states, already facing budget strains, complained to the Obama administration about the cost.
Fifteen states have state minimum wage and overtime protections for home-care workers; six others and the District of Columbia require that they receive at least the minimum wage.
In announcing the rule in September 2013, Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said, “Almost two million home-care workers are doing critical work, providing services to people with disabilities and senior citizens,” yet they are “lumped into the same category as babysitters.”
The new rule ends a 40-year-old exemption from federal wage laws that treated these workers as companions, like babysitters, who did not qualify.
Home-care industry officials warned that the increased costs caused by the new rule might make many families unable to afford home care and might push more Americans who are disabled or older than 65 into nursing homes, increasing costs for the government. Moreover, some states warned of increased Medicaid costs.
Jodi Sturgeon, the group’s president, said, “The decision to delay means that two million home-care workers — largely low-income women, and disproportionately women of color — will have to wait as long as another 12 months to receive even the most basic labor protections, guarantees that most other American workers take for granted.”
Caring Across Generations, a group that aids home-care workers and those who need home care, applauded the administration’s move.
Ai-jen Poo, a group co-director, said, “As states prepare for implementation to begin in 2015, we hope that they can act swiftly to ensure that needed services are neither cut nor delayed.”