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Home care workers fight for fair wages

If you are a home care provider in New York, you play a vital role in the health care industry. Because of the work you do, patients can remain in their homes and still receive professional, compassionate care.

However, the work is difficult, often thankless and certainly not lucrative. In fact, some days you may wonder if it is worth the time and effort you put into it, especially if your shifts are 24 hours long. Recently, others who work as home health care providers have been fighting for changes in hourly pay. There is some question about whether these changes will be good or bad for the industry.

Where do things stand with your hourly pay?

You have probably been following the progress of the court cases that involve your hourly pay. On the other hand, perhaps you have been working so many hours, you haven't had time to check the news. Since many home care providers work 24-hour shifts, their time is not really their own, and two lawsuits have attempted to see that you at least receive fair wages for the time you spend away from your home and family.

The home health industry typically compensates care givers like you for 13 of the 24 hours you work. This allows eight unpaid hours for you to sleep and three unpaid hours for your meals. The lawsuits demanded that home health care employers pay providers for all 24 hours. In both cases, the plaintiffs won.

Not so fast!

Because the plaintiff's lawsuits also demanded back pay for all 24-hour home care providers in New York, you can imagine the fears that faced home health organizations, including:

•· The bankruptcy and closing down of caregiving operations

•· The loss of thousands of jobs for health care providers like you

•· The subsequent loss of vital health care for many patients

•· The institutionalization of many whom home care agents served at home

Because of these fears, the New York Department of Labor recently passed an emergency regulation that keeps the 13-hour rule in place temporarily. As it stands now, your employer will likely calculate your pay based on the assumption that you will be working for 13 hours a day, not 24. The DOL has 90 days to propose a final version of the regulation.

As a 24-hour care provider, you will want to be aware of your right to just wages. Because your employer does not pay you for meal times and sleeping hours, he or she should not require you to work during that time. If you feel you are not being fairly compensated for the hours you work, you have every right to seek legal advice.

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