Congress May Exempt Home-Care Workers from Federal Wage Laws

Republicans in Congress are preparing legislation to restore home care workers’ exemption from federal wage laws in case the Trump administration does not act, the office of Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) told Bloomberg News.

The Obama administration eliminated the “companionship exemption” for personal care workers, a policy that took effect in 2015. The legislation the Republicans are preparing would reverse that move by the Obama administration and restore the exemption.

NAHC and other allied organizations sued unsuccessfully to stop the Obama administration’s elimination of the exemption, but NAHC is hopeful an administrative fix can be found. While NAHC has discussed a legislative solution, NAHC’s Vice President for Law William Dombi says “we agree with Senator Roberts that an administrative fix is the better approach.”

The implementation of the exemption elimination has actually hurt workers, says Mr. Dombi, employees’ hours are being capped to prevent time-and-a-half overtime pay. Patients are also paying more because costs are passed on to them.

Roberts and 13 of his Republican colleagues in the Senate introduced legislation to address this problem in 2015 – the Ensuring Access to Affordable and Quality Home Care for Seniors and People with Disabilities Act, but it never got a vote.

Roberts’ Senate office confirmed that he has spoken with new Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about the issue, urging the department to issue a new regulation. However, if the department fails to act, Roberts will introduce his own legislation.

NAHC hopes the administration will introduce a regulatory fix to this problem, easing the burden on providers, workers and patients. Please stay tuned to NAHC Report and we will update you on this important issue as developments warrant.