In Focus: Employees and Responsive Workplaces
Dec 05, 2013 | Permalink »
Justice Begins at Home: Extending FLSA Protections to Home Care Workers
By Lauren French
The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced that it would be extending the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections to workers who provide home care assistance to older adults and those with illness, injury or disability. This was welcome news for the nearly two million home workers who have long been denied these basic protections that most U.S. workers already enjoy.
To explain how this new rule would be implemented, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) hosted a webinar on December 3 featuring experts in the areas of home care work, employment law, and Medicare programs. The panelists discussed the details of implementing the new regulation and the ways in which it would affect workers and employers.
Cathy Ruckelshaus, General Counsel & Program Director of NELP, explained the history of the so-called companionship exemption. When Congress extended coverage of the Fair Labor Standards Act to domestic services workers in 1974 it created limited exceptions for casual baby sitters and workers providing companionship services for the elderly. However, Department of Labor regulations issued under the law defined the term "companionship services" very broadly to include workers such as certified nursing assistants and health aids.
Oct 17, 2013 | Permalink »
Signs of Culture Change: San Francisco Passes Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance
Workers who are caregivers to children or other dependents often face considerable hardships as they try to meet their caregiving obligations while performing their jobs. For many, even a small amount of flexibility in their schedules can ease this burden. For example, being allowed to work from 8-4 instead of 9-5 might make it possible for a worker to avoid the cost of an after-school babysitter for his children. The ability to work from home occasionally might enable a worker to take her elderly father to a medical appointment. For low-wage workers, increased predictability may be more important than flexibility: having a consistent schedule makes finding quality childcare possible for some workers. When schedules are unpredictable, workers struggle not only to find childcare, but also to pay the bills – when their hours vary from week to week, workers’ paychecks also fluctuate unexpectedly.
Workers in San Francisco will soon have a potential avenue to address time-at-work issues. This week, the city’s board of supervisors unanimously passed the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance, which will give workers who have personal caregiving obligations the right to request changes to their working conditions in order to meet these obligations. San Francisco’s new law follows closely on the heels of a similar provision passed as a part of an equal pay bill in the state of Vermont earlier this year.
While “right to request” laws related to work schedules are new to the United States, workers in the U.K, Australia, and New Zealand have been benefitting from them for some time. Moreover, some nations have rules that go further than a “right to request,” instead providing a substantive right to flexible or alternative working conditions for parents and other caregivers. The Vermont and San Francisco laws create a formal avenue for workers to inquire about increased flexibility (or predictability, in the case of San Francisco). They do not mandate employers to agree to such flexibility. Rather, employers are required to consider the request in good faith, but can reject it if they determine that it will impose undue hardship on their businesses – a determination that is largely left to the discretion of the employer. In San Francisco, workers will have a right to be free from caregiver discrimination and in Vermont, a non-retaliation clause is included in the law.
Sep 19, 2013 | Permalink »
D.C. Council Considers Expanded Paid Sick Leave Law
By Lauren French
On Tuesday, the D.C. Council introduced legislation that would finally give restaurant workers and new employees access to earned sick days. The new law, proposed by Marion Barry with the support of nine other councilmembers, would expand on the 2008 Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act (ASSLA). Although the ASSLA, the second earned sick days law to be passed in America, was an important milestone for workers and advocates it includes numerous exemptions that leave many workers in the District unprotected and struggling to care for their health and the health of their families.
Under the ASSLA, workers can earn three to seven paid sick days per year, depending on the number of employees at the business. Importantly, the law exempts “restaurant wait staff and bartenders who work for a combination of wages and tips.” One study found that almost 80 percent of restaurant workers in D.C. do not currently have access to paid sick leave. That has major consequences for both employees’ wellbeing and public health and safety. In fact, 59 percent of D.C. restaurant workers reported having prepared, cooked, or served food while sick, a practice that frequently spreads contagious disease and food-borne illness.