The Court Ruling
The Supreme Court of the State of New York has on April 11, 2017 ruled that caregiver professional services can be paid for the entire 24-hour period[I] that they spend at a patient’s home. The ruling comes in contrast with New York labor regulations, according to which workers have to be paid for a period of at least 13 hours (as long as they have eight hours for sleep, five of which uninterrupted, and three hours for mealtime).
According to the court ruling, 24-hour home health aides are not classified as residential workers – the class of professionals to which the 13-hour reimbursement rule applies. As a result, agencies may be forced to provide back payments for periods extending up to six years in the past.
24-Hour Wages for Home Health Aides and Industry Protests
The ruling has shed some light on a problem that’s been ongoing in the field of 24-hour health assistance.
In the fall of 2016, home healthcare workers protested [II]against the 24-hour shift conditions.
The incident involved 40 workers who announced that they’d be suing an agency for the 11-dollar per hour payment they were getting, rather than being compensated for their entire 24-hour shift. According to the home health aides, the company also denied their right to receive overtime payments.
“If you work 24 hours, you should be paid 24 hours,” protest organizers claimed.
Setting a Precedent
The 2016 example isn’t the only one when it comes to the controversy related to calculating 24-hour wages for home health aides. The court case that has set the precedent and led to the new Supreme Court ruling is the Tokhtaman v. HumanCare, LLC case.[III]
A home care professional is suing the agency that they’re employed by – HumanCare. According to the plaintiff, she didn’t classify as a residential worker. Residential workers are the ones that receive compensation for a 13-hour period during a 24-hour shift, according to New York Labor Law (NYLL).
HumanCare attempted to defend their position by quoting a New York Department of Labor (NYDOL) letter [IX] from 2010 in which the terms live-in and sleep-in are used interchangeably. As a result, many have interpreted the information to mean that 24-hour health aides should be paid for a 13-hour shift that excludes sleep and meal breaks.
The court ruling is expected to have a massive impact on the industry, especially when it comes to agencies that employ a big number of home health aides that work 24-hour shifts.
“This case has possible far-reaching effects that will impact on the cost of services,” said Home Care Association of New York communications director Roger Noyes. “For those service providers that have numerous 24-hour, live-in cases, the new costs would be massive.”
In conclusion, this situation will reduce the number of live-in caregivers that work through agencies. One of the big challenges for the homecare industry is the limited caregivers available vs demand and seems the situation doesn’t get better any time soon.