Home Care Workers Can't Wait

Jun 11, 2012, 08:00 ET from Direct Care Alliance, Inc.

NEW YORK, June 11, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Five years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against home care worker Evelyn Coke when she claimed entitlement to protection under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The anniversary of that decision is a reminder that home care workers cannot wait any longer for this long-overdue right.

Ms. Coke, a Jamaican immigrant who had worked for 20 years as a home care aide in New York City, was suing for years' worth of back pay for overtime hours she had booked at her regular hourly rate. On June 11, 2007, the court ruled against Ms. Coke, but it left the door open to change, noting that either Congress or the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) could extend FLSA protections to home care workers. DOL walked through that door last December.

Home care worker and Direct Care Alliance Board Chair Tracy Dudzinski stood behind President Obama when he announced DOL's proposed rule on December 15. "The President talked about how we home care workers had waited long enough for this day, and he was right," says Dudzinski. "We deserve the same basic rights as other American workers."

Guaranteeing these rights is important not just to the nation's 2 million home care workers but to the millions of elders and people with disabilities who rely on their assistance. Home care work is the fastest-growing job category in the U.S., but high turnover rates already make it difficult to find and keep enough workers to provide high-quality care where most people want it: in their own homes. To fill the vacancies that will multiply as our population ages, we must guarantee FLSA protection, which would ensure that home care workers would earn at least minimum wage, get time and a half for overtime, and be compensated for time spent traveling between clients.

Evelyn Coke passed away before her battle was won, but her fellow home care workers and their allies are keeping the fight alive. The vast majority of the 26,000 public comments on the rule were in favor of it, and advocates are collecting signatures on a change.org petition urging DOL and the White House to enact the rule now. "Evelyn Coke demanded that we respect home care workers and that they be treated equally under the law," says David Ward, director of policy and planning for the Direct Care Alliance. "Millions of Americans already depend on home care workers, and that number is growing fast. We can't wait any longer to give this vital workforce the basic rights it deserves."

The Direct Care Alliance is the national advocacy voice of direct care workers in long-term care. We empower workers to speak out for better wages, benefits and training, so more people can commit to direct care as a career. We also convene powerful allies nationwide to build consensus for change.


Contact: David Ward
(212) 730-0741 | dward@directcarealliance.org

SOURCE Direct Care Alliance, Inc.