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Rule On Overtime Pay For Caregivers Prompts Pushback

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is seeking to enlist people with disabilities and their families to campaign against new federal labor rules that would require some care workers to get overtime pay and others to be paid by the hour instead of a nightly lump sum.

The change, according to the governor and his Department for Aging and Disability Services, would cost the state millions of dollars that could be better spent.

“I’m not sure the federal government knew the unintended consequences of this,” Brownback said. “We think the cost numbers are pretty significant for us as a state and it’s going to reduce our ability to get people off of waiting lists and further services in the state of Kansas to the tune of about $30 million additional cost in the system for no additional services.”

Brownback said the new rules could force people with disabilities out of their homes and into institutional care.

For the past 40 years, care workers for people with disabilities have been defined as domestic help, which meant they could work more than 40 hours without triggering overtime pay. The state’s procedure for that is that people with disabilities were classified as their care workers’ employers.

Under the new U.S. Department of Labor regulations, the state of Kansas and the financial management service and managed care organizations it employs will be considered joint employers with the person with the disability, meaning the care worker would have to be paid overtime when working more than 40 hours a week.

Another part of the system that’s affected is “sleep care,” where a care worker sleeps in the client’s home and gets up periodically to provide services required during the night.

Sleep-cycle workers in Kansas are now paid between $31 and $36 a night. The new rules would require those workers be paid an hourly rate instead, state officials said.

The new rules are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.

At a meeting last week, Brownback said he has sent a letter to the Labor Department asking for an exemption or implementation delay on the new rules. He said he’s also contacted the Kansas congressional delegation and state legislators asking them to join his request.

He also called directly on people with disabilities and their caregivers to contact the White House, Congress and the Labor Department to tell their stories of how the rule could personally harm their care. He said Kansas and other states will be organizing a “call-in day” with the aim of flooding the Labor Department with complaints on a single day.

During a question and answer session following Brownback’s remarks, a majority of the attendees appeared to agree that they would support the governor’s call to action. Many expressed concerns that if they couldn’t employ a single caregiver — often a family member — for more than 40 hours a week, they’d have to bring new workers into their homes.

William Campbell came to the meeting with his attendant, KassAndra Smith. He said he gets 51 hours of care a week and that even if he could find someone willing to work 11 of those hours, it would threaten his health to have to split care between two attendants.

“I have an autoimmune problem,” Campbell said. “I can’t have anybody in my house that’s got a cold. I can’t go in the hospital because of infection. I sure as heck can’t go in a nursing home. So you know, it scares the crud out of me.”

Not everybody in the audience agreed with the governor’s read on the situation.

Several people, who asked that their names not be used because of fear of retaliation from employers or trouble with state agencies, said they think the answer to the problem is to just pay the overtime.

One man, whose wife has cared for the same woman with a disability for 15 years, characterized the overtime exemption as a loophole and said the state needs to step up now that the federal government is closing it.

“Caretakers should be considered an employee just like any other employee in any other business,” he said. “But for some reason when it comes to the people with disabilities, the caretakers are treated substandard to all other people that are in the workforce.”

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Comments (20 Responses)

  1. dandin says:

    So the Governor is willing to pay the $125,000 to 150,000 per year to institutionalize one individual?

    Rather than pay overtime or a reasonable hourly wage for a caregiver?

    I don’t think I want him to manage my budget.

  2. Jimmy Selph says:

    Caregivers work is specialized. It requires compassion and caring but generally is not taxing work. Medicaid has set the pace for most of these wages and most States are looking for easy cuts and caregivers are it. Crooks are harder to catch and control so States have to manage where they can. If they implement the overtime pay it’s going to hurt the patient more than help the caregiver. It will limit the caregivers time to 40 hours per week. Caregiver already run other business’s from the clients home or attend educational classes online. I personally know one who runs a taxi service and another who sells cosmetics while caring for clients.

  3. Kat says:

    The Governor’s action is taking the focus off the fact the state of Kansas has not increased direct care wages for years, making it difficult for direct service worker to live off their wages unless they work over forty hours. Pay more and maybe employees wouldn’t have to work so many hours to make ends meet. I do not agree with the DOL ruling that KS is the employer so if the employee chooses to work for multiple agencies doing the same service that any hours over 40 is overtime. I worry when this goes into effect without better compensation we won’t have enough workers. delaying the implementation does not address the fact that the service is not adequately compensated.

  4. marie camp says:

    I work in Virginia for 8.86 an hour, no overtime, no sick leave, no insurance, no 401k, no mileage reinbursement. I am very fortunate my husband is the bread winner. Most caregivers can’t work on this wage and who is it hurting the people who are disabled. We work very hard for our money and but it is rewarding in many ways we can’t survive on such a low income.

  5. Zach's Dad says:

    While I agree that everyone should be paid a living wage, when it comes to employing individuals in the home it is very difficult. In Oregon, the State has made a policy that regardless overtime will not be paid. This becomes a problem when the State is forced to implement the new regulations and does not put the consumer first. If a person calls in sick and the other person has reached the 40 hours then the individual is left without care. This policy will jeopardize the health and safety of individuals living in community based settings. Every employer is forced to manage their own workforce. If the States are considered joint employer’s how are they going to manage the workload when overtime is inevitable in most settings at point or another.

  6. David says:

    Sam Brownback seems to have tanked the Kansas economy with his anti-people/pro corporation tea party policies. He is leaving no stone un-turned in his anti worker policy agenda. Well paid people will have a higher job satisfaction and those being cared for will benefit as a result.

  7. Bessie says:

    Yes caregivers are loving and passionate people. However, being loving and passionate does not mean that we should not pay you appropriately for your time. And caregivers work hard. They are some of the hardest workers that I have encountered. They sleep with one eye opened and many times they have to leave their own children to take care of their client. They take care of us and we should take care of them. I think we should stop all the excuses and pay them more.

  8. Parent/caregiver says:

    One thing no one ever asks it where will the company’s that employs the caregivers get the extra money to pay overtime? If the company pays the overtime they will be paying out more then they get from the Fed and State agency’s that pay them to take care of the clients. The Fed and State agency’s have already said they will not increase what they pay to company’s to care for clients. Where will the overtime money come from?

  9. mark hardin says:

    I have have had caregivers for 26 years these caregivers deserve higher pay and overtime period! Caregivers jobs are important.

  10. Kat says:

    Caregiver’s jobs are not easy. Overnights are often not a sleep job. They are often advertised as such but often the individuals who need overnight care are those who need it due to being up. Anyone who believes being a caregiver is easy obviously hasn’t done this work. If a caregiver is giving 40 hours per week and doing another job, it’s because they aren’t paid enough to live at the current pay rate they are being given. Minimum wage is often not enough for over nights. The argument however is that everyone should be asleep so just encourage them to go to bed.

  11. Cathy P. says:

    In the State of KS, I do the Personal Care Services for my son 24/7. My son functions at the 40 month intellectual level so needs a LOT of assistance and constant supervision. I am allowed 35 hours of pay per week at $9.30 an hour, no vacation, no sick leave, no holidays, no retirement program, etc. This is not my job of choice as I could be making twice this much if I were still at my previous job. Our son had to wait 2 years on the list for day services which were so bad that we pulled him from 3 programs and looked at others. KS is notorious for being anti-union and anti-worker and they always want to be an exception when it comes to fair labor standards and I do not support them getting an exception to the law. The minute they emailed me a letter asking me to take action, I did as I contacted my congressional reps and told them I did not want to see the exemption. It is a sham! As someone has already commented, institutionalization costs much more than the overtime would cost and we all know this. Unfortunately, in KS, we have been bombarded with letter after letter threatening that we would lose services, first they converted Medicaid to 3 private insurance companies and it was letter after letter. I made complaints about these letters because it is our experience that if you have someone with a developmental disability in your life, you have enough to be concerned about without all these others, with their own interest in mind, constantly threatening that services might be reduced. If you start digging around the programs here as I have, you will find that there are so many administrative employees, layer after layer, no one to take responsibility for actions being taken and so much skimming off the top of the funds available that those for whom the funding is intended get only the crumbs. I say, “NO, Kansas. No exception.” We put our house on the market to join the mass exodus out of Kansas and their financial priorities which do not include lower paid workers, the elderly and people with developmental disabilities.

  12. Steve Farmer says:

    What would be the tax impact on the caregiver? If they stay in a home overnight/sleeping do they have to include meals as income, plus any other benefits they may be given not counting the higher tax bracket?

  13. Barb says:

    Brownback would far rather give huge tax breaks to large corporations than give caregivers a raise or overtime pay. People with disabilities aren’t his priority, his budget is.

  14. Joseph M. Macbeth says:

    First of all, I loathe the terms “attendant” and “caretaker” for these jobs. They are highly skilled professionals, and contrary to popular belief, it is highly taxing work. How can we be so strongly against sub-minimum wages for people with disabilities at work, but for them for direct support professionals? Come on, stop looking for ways out and give these workers the same civil rights as every other worker in America.

  15. Gail Godwin says:

    When “whomever” says that these are our “most valuable/valued employees” and treats them otherwise my mind goes askew. It is reasonable for anyone to expect payment when they are working and overtime when they work overtime. Those that supervise the direct supporter (aside from the person for whom they work) get paid overtime (or are prevented from working it), paid for all hours of work, comp time, vacation time, paid more per hour, salaried… that “next step” position should be such a leap from the direct support position. Employees are valuable ~ let’s put our energy there.

  16. vmgillen says:

    The new rules won’t force people into institutional care – that’s a crock. Let’s take a look at how much we value people who need care: not enough to pay decent wages, not enough to pay OT… no wonder the turn-over rates are so high. And no wonder poorly screened disaffected workers abuse their charges at an alarming rate.

    Do we care about people? or is only the money? – not the money people earn, btw.

  17. Cathy P. says:

    Jimmy Selph states that a caregiver’s work is not taxing and for any caregiver who doesn’t find it taxing, my suggestion is that you aren’t doing it right. I have seen many individuals that there is not enough money in the world to get me to care for them especially for $9.30 an hour or less. Another concern to me was that if I put my son in the care of someone else, I wouldn’t want someone who has been dealing with people like him or people more difficult after 50 or 60 hours of it. Crying about not being able to recruit people just ticks me off! IF they went the extra mile to provide training about working with people and providing a decent quality of life for them rather than just managing them like cattle, I believe that the people with DD in KS would be much easier to work with making the job of caring for them a more pleasant one. Seriously, those managing the program know nothing about people with developmental disabilities. You would be shocked at what my son experienced and most don’t have anyone to watch out for them.

  18. Cristy Newlin says:

    This will make a huge impact on the state system. That is a significant cost increase – but I believe it is justified. However, the 40 hour cap is going to be an even bigger impact for service recipients and the employers. I am Day Supports provider and while you don’t want to overwork your employees and burn them out, the reality is some weeks require some amount of overtime to provide a quality service.

  19. Cathy P. says:

    I called the Governor’s Office this morning and verified that state employees working over 40 hours receive overtime pay so why wouldn’t caregivers? You have to wonder if they don’t contract out so many services for just this reason and brag because they are saving money doing it while stepping all over the people with disabilities and our senior citizens also. I bet the person that put out the press release gets overtime when they surpass 40 hours and maybe looking at overtime by state employees would be the place to look for cuts to the budget since most of those would not involve a possible life or death situation if a service wasn’t performed immediately.

  20. M. Cracker says:

    MY STATE OF CALIFORNIA IS IN THE SAME SITUATION. INSTEAD OF TRYING TO SCARE THE FAMILIES AND THEIR WORKERS THEY HAVE STEPPED UP AND ARE PAYING THE OVERTIME. IT AMOUNTS TO MAYBE AN EXTRA $300 A MONTH FOR SOMEONE GETTING THE MOST HOURS POSSIBLE. THE HOURLY WAGE IS MINIMUM. COME ON PEOPLE. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT JOB, THESE PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE LIVES OF VERY VULNERABLE PEOPLE. PAY THEM A DECENT WAGE. IT STILL ISN’T A “LIVING WAGE”…

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