Today's guest blogger is employment lawyer Michael Mason. Attorney Mason practices at Bennett and Belfort in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and has litigated and mediated numerous employment law cases representing both employers and employees. Here are his thoughts about a problem which comes up regularly: the payment of home health aides.
A recent New York Times blog post described the push by home health care aides to change federal wage regulations. Currently, federal law does not guarantee home health aides any minimum wage, and it does not require that home health aides be paid overtime. As the population ages and the demand for home health care skyrockets, many home health care workers find themselves working long hours for little pay. This is in contrast to workers performing the same job at nursing homes, who are guaranteed a minimum wage and overtime pay under federal law. Thus, industry groups and even President Obama have spoken out about the need to provide greater protections for home health aides.
A Massachusetts resident who hires a home health care aide in the midst of this recent public discourse may understandably conclude that their health care aide does not need to be paid the minimum wage or overtime pay for any time worked in excess of 40 hours in a week. However, it's critical for anyone hiring a home health care aide in Massachusetts to know that under state law, these workers are not exempt from minimum wage or overtime requirements.
Unlike federal law, Massachusetts law does not make home health aides exempt from minimum wage or overtime requirements, and when a conflict exists between state and federal wage laws, the scheme that provides greater protection for the employee is the one that applies. Regardless of their exemption under federal law, home health aides in Massachusetts must be paid at least the minimum wage (currently $8.00 per hour) and must be paid one and one-half times their usual rate for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a given week.
In light of the severe civil and criminal penalties that may be levied for violating wage and hour laws, it is highly advisable that anyone hiring or employing a home health care worker seek a qualified employment law attorney to advise them on compliance with the law.