Back in March of this year I wrote an article about the Obama administration’s failed attempt to enforce wage protection for home health care workers. You can read the article by clicking here. I will quickly summarize what that was about. Some people with disabilities have home health care workers come into their homes to help with various things such as dressing, feeding, bathing and other tasks that are needed. These workers a lot of times work for agencies that bill a funding source and then pay the worker out of that. When the funding source is the government, such as Medicaid, the agencies receive a set, non-negotiable rate. My agency currently gets an hourly rate of $19.04/hr. and pays their employees out of that. The more the agency pays the employee, the lower their profit margin goes. Due to the classification of this type of employee, agencies were not required to pay the employee minimum wage nor overtime compensation and this is what the administration tried to change back in January of this year but got struck down. Problem is, they decided to appeal the ruling and this time the court ruled in favor of the administration. If you haven’t read the previous article I wrote on this, I would encourage you to do so as it will explain some of the impact it will have on the agencies, employees and even the consumers that are being taken care of.
While the previous article gives some idea of the negative impact of this ruling, I don’t feel it did a very good job of driving the issue home. Also since the notion was struck down last time, I didn’t give reason or methods to object. This ruling is going to cause agencies to limit how many hour their employees are allowed to work. This limit is going to have to be 40 per week or less simply because they can’t afford it. The ironic part about this is that the employees are the ones who should be the most upset about this ruling even though it is supposed to benefit them. If you are an employee of an agency and you are thinking you are going to make more money since you have to be paid overtime compensation, let me stop you right there. Agencies cannot afford to pay you overtime! Secondly, are you an employee who works more than 40 hours a week so that you could pay your bills? You can now expect your hours to be cut back to 40 per week now. And probably in actuality, you should expect them to be cut back to about 37 or 38 to count for any situations where you don’t get off your shift in time. So while employees might be excited to hear they are going to receive overtime compensation, it will most likely mean a reduction in your income.
As for the consumers, if you have any staff who gets more than 38 hours per week, you might want to get ready to lose them for at least part of those hours, if not completely. If an employee is reliant on 50 hours per week at $10/hr. and now they are being cut back to 38 hours per week still making $10/hr., they have two choices. They are going have to either supplement the lost in income by getting a second job, which not too many people like to do, or they are going to have to get a totally different job that pays better. That should also be fun for agencies to explain to both the consumer and employee since people tend to think businesses are evil, greedy and have an infinite amount of money!
The next logical thing to do is ask what we can do? I’m not exactly a movement organizer but to me, there are some important things that both consumers and employees need to do. Notice I said BOTH consumers and employees! This is because this ruling benefits nobody involved! It reduces income for employees and takes away employees that the consumers want to have working. This is the first step we need to make, we have to make everybody involved to understand why this ruling is not going to help anybody. Proponents of the ruling are going to go after the gullible/uninformed by yelling about fairness and proclaiming that everyone should be entitled to minimum wage and overtime compensation. If you’ve read my other article on this topic, you know that the minimum wage argument is just ridiculous. And the overtime compensation is just not possible right now without severe consequences! The next thing we need to do is to call and write our state representatives and tell them to do everything they can to not make agencies have to comply with this rule. They will especially be shocked when employees of agencies don’t want this to go into effect but remember, you employees are the ones who are going to be hurt the most by this! There is this feeling that I think a lot of people fall into, myself included, that a problem is so enormous that how can one person do anything to make a change. There is absolutely something to be about the power in numbers and that is how to make changes in the big scheme of things!