In a case that could have far reaching consequences, a group of New York’s home care workers are challenging a state policy providing only thirteen-hours of pay for home care workers performing a 24-hour shift. The Department of Labor previously created the so-called “thirteen-hour rule” for home care workers to ensure they were not being paid to sleep or eat, which it calculated to take up eight and three hours, respectively. According to the Department of Labor, if the worker does not receive time to sleep or eat then he or she should be paid for their time.
The home health care agency named in the suit, Human Care, argued that the Department of Labor’s policy should apply. According to Human Care’s attorneys, the conclusion that home health care workers should be paid twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week is absurd.
The group of home care workers disagree. According to their lawsuit, because they are obligated to stay by their client’s side for the full twenty-four hours then they are working for that entire time and deserve to be compensated.
Justice Carol Edmead, a judge in New York’s Supreme Court, the lowest court in the state, agreed with the workers this spring, causing waves in the industry. Last month, a recent appellate court decision affirming Justice Edmead’s ruling now has the home health care industry on the edge of its seats. The industry now faces a daunting prospect – a doubling of their workers’ salaries. Not only that, but under New York law, the statute of limitations allows the home healthcare workers to recoup “lost wages,” putting the companies on the hook for retroactively paying the employees those extra eleven hours. Al Cardillo, executive vice president for the Home Care Association of New York State said, “the cost differences are staggering. This would have major implications.”
Home care is already a massive and fast-growing industry. Responding to the massive changes in the healthcare industry and an aging population averse to nursing homes, the industry has exploded. Medicaid alone spent $7.2 million on home care in 2017. In New York City, the number of home health care workers has grown by 12 percent since 2016. Even with the rapid growth, at least three New York agencies said they still turn away at least 100 cases each, according to Craine’s New York.