Obama Announces New Minimum Wage Rules for Home Caregivers

Dec 15, 2011 4:09pm

As part of his ongoing executive action campaign, President Obama today announced new rules to provide minimum wage and overtime protections for the nearly 1.8 million workers who provide in-home care to the elderly.

“As the home-care business has changed over the years, the law hasn’t changed to keep up. So even though workers … do everything from bathing to cooking, they’re still lumped in the same category as teenage babysitters when it comes to how much they make,” Obama said at a “We Can’t Wait” event at the White House. “That’s just wrong. In this country, it’s inexcusable.”

Workers classified as “companions” do not qualify for minimum wage and overtime pay. Such workers were exempted under 1974 guidelines that were meant to apply to casual babysitters and companions for the elderly.

“I can tell you firsthand that these men and women, they work their tails off, and they don’t complain. They deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve to be paid fairly for a service that many older Americans couldn’t live without. And companies who do pay fair wages to these women shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage,” the president said.

While the provisions in the president’s $447 billion American Jobs Act remain stalled on Capitol Hill, Obama has been taking small unilateral actions to boost job growth and foster his image as a president taking charge of the economy.

Obama was joined at today’s event by Pauline Beck, a home-care worker from California whom the president met during his 2008 campaign when Beck was Obama’s boss for a day as part of a “Walk a Day in My Shoes” event.

“Heroic work and hard work: That’s what Pauline was all about,” the president said. “She was glad to be working hard, and she was glad to be helping someone. All she wanted in return for a hard day’s work was enough to take care of those kids she was going home to, enough to save a little bit for retirement, maybe take a day off once in a while to rest her aching back.

“Americans all deserve a fair shake and a fair shot. And as long as I have the honor of serving as president, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that those very modest expectations are fulfilled,” Obama concluded.

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