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Massachusetts’ 35,000 personal care attendants now eligible for overtime for the first time with historic court ruling

Boston, Mass. (August 26, 2015) – Massachusetts healthcare workers are lauding a decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding U.S. Labor Department rules granting federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the nation’s two million homecare workers – including 35,000 individuals in the Commonwealth.

The unanimous decision will benefit thousands of Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) across Massachusetts, who were previously denied overtime due to an arcane loophole in the law that exempted “companionship services.”

“This victory is another important milestone in the efforts to improve the lives of home care workers, who play such a vital role in ensuring that seniors and those with disabilities can live at home safely and with dignity,” said 1199SEIU Executive Vice President Veronica Turner. “Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants recently won a pathway to $15 per hour, and these basic overtime protections are another critical step towards bringing the home care profession out of the shadows.”

With the ruling, Massachusetts’ 35,000 PCAs – home care workers employed through the MassHealth personal care attendant program – are now eligible for overtime for the first time. In addition, the 20,000 home health aides employed through private agencies and other organizations will have their overtime protections bolstered. Previously these workers were protected under state law.

“I’m thrilled with the Court’s decision, which will help so many homecare workers earn fair wages for the work they do,” said Rosario Cabrera, a home health worker in New Bedford. “During the past three years, I’ve lost out on thousands of dollars despite working almost 800 hours of overtime. It’s gratifying to see the court address this injustice and recognize the vital work we do taking care of our seniors so they can live independently.”

The $84 billion homecare industry originally brought the case, called Home Care Association of America v. Weil to court in attempt to invalidate Labor Department rules clarifying what constitutes exempt companionship services. The rules, which were finalized last summer, ensure that third-party employers – such as homecare agencies – can no longer claim minimum wage or overtime exemptions for homecare workers.

“This victory is part of a tapestry of efforts to bring dignity to the home care workforce,” said 1199SEIU Vice President Rebecca Gutman. “Along with Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants recently winning a pathway to $15 per hour, ensuring basic overtime protections is another critical step towards bringing the home care profession out of the shadows.”

In its decision, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the rule and declared that a federal judge had erred in his finding that the Labor Department had acted outside its authority in issuing the home care rule.

The Court’s decision also corrects a decades-old injustice that has fueled poverty wages and destabilized a critical and growing industry that thousands of Massachusetts residents rely upon each year to care for their loved ones.

“We’re thrilled that the Court has in its ruling recognized the vital role that homecare workers play,” added Turner. “Homecare workers are not simply companions – they provide critical medical, nutritional and other services. As our senior population continues to grow, demand for homecare services is increasing, and this ruling will help reduce workforce turnover and ensure Massachusetts residents have access to high quality and affordable care for their loved ones.”

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