New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing some rocky roads ahead given that even though he’s been a vocal advocate for women’s work rights and equal pay, he has effectively gone against a court ruling that would have allowed home care workers (the majority of home are women) to be paid for every hour they work during a 24 hour shift.
New York has been mired in what some call ‘arcane’ laws limiting how many hours home care providers are eligible to be paid during a straight 24 hour period. The rules stipulate that they only have to be paid for half that time, as several of the hours are deemed ‘down time’ and eight hours considered ‘sleep’ time.
These rules were established with live-in care providers –to be paid professionals living with their clients or family members seeking reimbursement- in mind, not caregivers who are moving from one client to another or working straight 24-hour shifts to ensure that the clients who need this level of support get it.
As reported by The Nation in the article, Home-Care Workers Clocking 24-Hour Shifts Are Being Paid for Only 13 Hours, written by Michelle Chen:
“Following last year’s legal triumphs, “home attendants really rightfully celebrated that as a victory that came at least in part as a result of their organizing,” said Sophie de Benedetto with the Ain’t I a Woman labor-advocacy campaign. But after hundreds of workers petitioned to overturn the rule and testified about the “brutal conditions,” the Labor Department still upheld the more profitable industry standard (which is heavily subsidized by state and federal senior-care funds) of nonstop shifts for a 50 percent discount. Advocates are now pressing the State Labor Board of Appeals, which reviews Labor Department decisions, to abolish the rule directly.”
According to advocates for home care workers who tend to work these long shifts, Governor Cuomo has effectively given the right to force these caregivers to work these long shifts without expecting any payment. For these advocates, that is nothing short of pulling the rug from underneath the legs of hard-working men and women.
Some believe the governor’s actions were in direct response to powerful agencies and organizations concerned about the rising costs of home care, despite the reduction in reimbursement rates at the federal level. This is one more wave of strife to hit the industry as the demand for these services increases, minimum wages are driven higher through legislation, and both those in need of services and home care providers wonder how the industry will fare -or be changed- in the coming years.
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