Republicans seem to be focusing on attacking every group that President Obama tries to help. The latest group they have set their sights on is home health care workers. Apparently, since President Obama made a move to have home health care workers covered under the Fair Labor Standards ACT (FLSA) last year, the GOP has decided to move to eliminate any possibility of coverage on a national level.
An exclusion was made in 1974 that “limited exemption from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the Act for casual babysitters and companions for the aged and infirm, and created an exemption from the overtime pay requirement only for live-in domestic workers,” the U.S. Department of Labor reports.
ThinkProgress reports: “This exclusion was made in 1974 when domestic workers were extended FLSA coverage. Congress carved-out two exceptions — casual baby-sitters like high-school students who provide child-care irregularly, and workers who provide 'companionship services' to people with disabilities and the elderly.”
These decisions were made decades before the home health industry included workers doing everything from helping the elderly do daily tasks to taking their vital signs. The difference they can make in the life of an elderly person is immeasurable. The quality of life the individual will experience can be increased significantly. The hours also can be very long and the work very grueling.
The report, “Fair Pay for Home Care Workers: Reforming the U.S. Department of Labor’s Companionship Regulations Under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” was issued by the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Among its conclusions: “Home care workers provide the vital care that allows older adults and persons with disabilities needing care to remain in their own homes. The result has been to suppress wages for the home care workforce, consigning millions of caregivers—the overwhelming majority of them women, many of them immigrants and women of color—to working poverty. The lack of ordinary overtime coverage has also facilitated excessive hours in small segments of the industry. Long hours are not only grueling for workers but can contribute to worse care for patients, as caregivers working 60 hours or more a week face fatigue and stress in performing what is a demanding job under any circumstances. These substandard working conditions have created very serious employee recruitment and retention problems, generating labor shortages that prevent us from meeting the nation’s rapidly growing need for home care.”
As aging U.S. citizens reaches the point in their lives where they need assistance to remain at home, the primary focus should be to ensure that they are able to do just that. It is exceptionally important for seniors to be able to stay in their homes if it is possible. However, if home health care workers are not available, they will be forced into senior homes. Their quality of life would be much poorer if they lose their independence.
The decision of the GOP to attack this group of hardworking Americans leaves onlookers scratching their heads. If an employee works long hours, they should be compensated accordingly. Failure to receive fair compensation for the work provided leaves our seniors without proper care, if they are able to receive any care at all.
If you like writing about U.S. politics and the 2012 campaign, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.