With Americans living longer and longer, more seniors require full-time help and must depend on caregivers to make sure they are safe and comfortable. Thanks to the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and minimum wage laws these domestic workers acting as personal attendants are now being paid more fairly.
In California, a personal attendant is anyone who works in a private household and spends at least 80% of their work time supervising, feeding or dressing a child or other person who, because of advanced age, physical disability or mental deficiency, needs supervision. The minimum wage laws require that these personal attendants be paid at least minimum wage and overtime. This means $9 per hour for the first 9 hours and time-and-a-half for each hour beyond that.
While this is great news for around 100,000 employees in California who are now guaranteed minimum wage for their services, it may be a problem for those who employ these workers. Many of these employers have been paying their workers a day rate—typically $80 to $120 per day. Under the new minimum wage laws, an employee who works 24 hours a day must be paid $283.50 each day, more than double the high end of a usual rate.
Before these minimum wage laws were in place, a personal attendant exception allowed employers to avoid paying these workers overtime. This exception has now been removed, except in the case of certain relatives. The minimum wage laws also don’t apply to cooks and gardeners (who already have labor protections in place), babysitters and those who provide domestic services through California’s In Home Support Service program that serves low-income individuals.
Although the bill became a law on January 1, 2014, many employers of personal attendants are not even aware that new minimum wage laws have been enacted, and others are flat-out refusing to accept it. While some employees may not report violations for fear of losing their job, employers who refuse to cooperate with the law are risking litigation. And a lawsuit for recovery of unpaid wages and overtime will likely include attorney’s fees, associated costs of the lawsuit, interest and penalties on top of the back wages.
The minimum wage laws are in effect only until January 1, 2017 when it will either be repealed or reinstated. A governor’s committee made up of both employers and personal attendants will convene between now and then to see how effective the law has been.
If you work as a caregiver or any minimum wage occupation and are not receiving the wages you are owed, contact our employment attorneys for a free consultation.