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DoL extends comment period on home care worker wage protection

The U.S. Department of Labor has extended the comment period on its proposed rule to provide minimum wage and overtime protections to in-home care workers to March 12. The original comment period was scheduled to close on Feb. 27.

President Barack Obama announced in December the proposed rule change that would expand minimum wage and overtime protections to cover in-home care workers who currently fall under the companion exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The companionship exemption was originally meant to apply to babysitters and those family and friends who care for the elderly, the DoL has argued. The proposed rule would amend the companionship exemption so that it would not be applied to home care workers employed by third parties and those home care professionals employed directly by families. The proposed change would not apply to those who perform companionship tasks such as visiting elderly family members or neighbors.

The DoL decided to extend the comment period after receiving requests for an extension from members of Congress and others. As of the beginning of March, the department had received more than 6,700 comments. The extension allows those who have already submitted comments to revise or add to their original comments.

The received comments lean toward support of the rule change, but they also highlight the debate about the change. Recurring comments fall primarily into two themes: The unfairness of the current rule and concerns about costs. Those writing to support the proposed change say that home care workers work hard and deserve better wage protections. Those in opposition worry that the overtime requirement will mean costs are passed on to families who will not be able to afford the additional care costs.

The DoL has not scheduled a date for the release of the final rule. “After the comment period closes, the department will carefully review every submission before proceeding to the next step: the drafting and publication of the final rule,” said a DoL spokesperson. “There are many factors involved in that process, which makes it difficult to predict exactly when that will be.”

Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted here

Follow HFN associate editor Stephanie Bouchard on Twitter @SBouchardHFN.