Employment LawIn the News

Home Health Care Aides: Overworked and Underpaid

By February 9, 2022 No Comments

Although identified as one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States, home health care aides are among the lowest paid. As both the number of aging citizens and the desire to avoid institutionalization continuously rise, the demands placed on home health aides only become stronger.

As a result, home health care aides are often assigned multiple long shifts in a row, taking them away from their families for days or weeks at a time. To make matters worse, most are paid low wages for only 13 hours of a live-in 24-hour shift. If you or a loved one is a home health care aide who is assigned a shift over 13 hours in a day, or works as a live-in, call the attorneys of Bohrer Brady, LLC and Getman, Sweeney & Dunn today at (845) 681-6282 for a free confidential consultation to see if you may be eligible for additional compensation.

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What is Home Care?

The primary responsibility of a home health care aide is to assist elderly and disabled patients with tasks such as cooking, bathing, dressing, housekeeping, medications, and more. In many cases, the aide provides continuous, around-the-clock care for patients who desire to live in the comfort of their home rather than an institution such as a nursing home or assisted living community.

The Case of the 24-Hour Shift

Within the home health care sector, 24-hour shifts, or working as a live-in, is common. However,  these home health care workers are often paid for only 13 hours of a 24-hour shift. The home health care agencies that employ home health aides claim the reason they compensate their employees for only 13 hours is because the workers receive an eight hours of sleep period and three hours for meal breaks.

However, many home health care aides have stated that since their patients need constant care, they have little uninterrupted time to sleep or take meal breaks. For instance, dementia patients require around-the-clock supervision and care. Others may need to be physically turned every few hours throughout the night to keep bed sores from forming.

How Home Health Care Aides Are Fighting Back

Working an overnight shift makes an already isolating and demanding job even more difficult. The fight to end 24-hour shifts, or at least for workers to be compensated appropriately for them, has not been easy. For example, in New York, upwards of 100 class action lawsuits have been filed by aides in recent years against their employers, challenging the policy of the 24-hour shift. Although some agencies have reached settlements, most fight against their employees, claiming that paying the workers what they’re owed would bankrupt them.

Many home health care services are backed by Medicare or Medicaid, the government-funded public insurance programs for elderly, disabled or low-income individuals. In many cases, the state and federal governments split the payments. Therefore, paying every worker the entirety of their 24-hour shift will nearly double the amount owed by taxpayers each year.

The New York Times conducted a study where 50 home health care aides were interviewed regarding their occupation. Many interviewees reported problems with unpaid or late wages, unaffordable benefits, and chronic injuries. Others claimed that even though they qualify for paid sick leave, they were unaware it existed or felt as if they didn’t have permission to take it.

The Role of Legislation

To combat the counter-arguments of employers, a bill has been introduced in Albany, New York that suggests splitting the 24-hour shifts into two 12-hour shifts, ensuring every hour is compensated. Although it acts as a potential compromise, workers claim that not enough action has been taken by lawmakers.

The private nature of the work that home health aides provide makes regulation of the field difficult. In March of 2019, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that aides must be paid for all 24 hours of their shifts if they are not receiving the breaks to which they’re legally entitled. However, it’s up to the staffing agencies to oversee the hours, and many do not follow the policy.

Additionally, some companies have allegedly failed to compensate workers who used paid time off (PTO), disciplined or fired workers who took unscheduled leave, required workers to provide documentation justifying their paid leave, and did not provide employees with a written paid sick leave policy. As individuals who give valuable and necessary care to our vulnerable loved ones, aides often face exploitative working conditions.

Seek the Guidance of an Employment Law Firm

If you are a home health care aide who works live-in, or long shifts over multiple days, you may have a claim for additional compensation.  Our experienced employment law attorneys have represented New York home health care workers in unpaid wage and overtime claims and for other New York Labor Law violations.

Contact us today by phone at (845) 681-6282 or fill out this form for a free confidential consultation.

Getman, Sweeney, & Dunn: 260 Fair Street, Kingston, NY 12401

(845) 255-9370

Bohrer Brady: 8712 Jefferson Hwy, Suite B, Baton Rouge, LA 70809