Media Release: Home Health Aides, Patients and Families Blast NYS Department of Labor at Public Hearing for Exploiting Aides and Endangering Patients’ Lives

For Immediate Release: July 11, 2018

 Home Health Aides, Patients and Families Blast NYS Department of Labor at Public Hearing for Exploiting Aides and Endangering Patients’ Lives

 Home attendants, patients, women’s groups, elected officials and patient advocates are speaking out against the NYS Department of Labor (DOL), demanding an end to its emergency regulation that sanctions a 24-hour work day while only paying for 13 hours. The DOL regulation violates the state’s own labor laws and may violate the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by forcing workers to stay in patients’ homes without overnight pay. The NYSDOL is holding a hearing today to make the emergency ruling permanent.

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Jian Hua Deng spent 6 years working as a home attendant for Family Home Care. She had to take care of a patient with colon cancer as well as her husband. During that time, there was not a day she slept more than 2 hours at a time. She says of the emergency regulation, “The judges have already made a decision on some of these cases, that 24 hour workers should get 24 hours of wages. But the boss does not act according to the law, and the Department of Labor not only doesn’t help workers, but actually uses emergency regulation to suppress our demands! … We are not live-in domestic workers but we’re not even as well-treated as them! The system of 24 hour shifts shouldn’t continue! For the health and vitality of workers and patients, splitting into 2 shifts is very necessary.”

Home attendants, 93% of whom are women, say the new regulation is bringing modern-day slavery to the state and harming patients just as much as the workers. Some agencies are now instructing home attendants to not respond to the patients’ needs at night and to call 911 if there is an emergency. Workers are unable to leave the patients’ home during a 24-hour shift and most are unable to sleep through the night, affecting not only workers’ health but also the quality of care they are able to provide for elderly, sick and disabled patients.   

Seferina Rosario, a home attendant with United Jewish Council for 28 years says of her work conditions, “I have almost always taken care of patients with Alzheimers. I almost never can sleep. No responsible home attendant will sleep if you have a patient who needs 24 hour care. Why would you be in someone’s home all night if you’re not working? That’s illogical.”

Workers from as far as Buffalo, New York have come to speak out and denounce the DOL’s emergency regulation. Mary Lister a home attendant and organizer with the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign says, “We have come too far to go back to the days of societal neglect of people with disabilities, and of forced, unpaid labor of working class people. The home care community of Buffalo will not sit idly by if our rights are threatened. We will, however, welcome with open arms the opportunity for the DOL to stand with the home care workers and patients of NYC and of the state as a whole, by honoring the court’s prior decisions that proved the 13-hour rule unlawful. If 8-hour shifts for 24-hour cases are possible in Buffalo, then 12-hour or shorter shifts can be made the norm here.”

Legal advocates for the workers assert that the DOL’s emergency regulation is attacking the very state and federal laws it is supposed to uphold, and is in direct contradiction with the 13th Amendment to the Constitution which abolished involuntary servitude. Leah Lotto, an attorney with National Center for Law and Economic Justice says, “This proposed regulation is an affront to the fundamental principle of our state’s and nation’s labor laws: that workers must be paid be for all hours worked.”

Workers and supporters were joined by several elected officials. “Home care workers provide critical care to vulnerable seniors and people with serious health needs, and they deserve to be paid fairly and to work reasonable hours so they can continue to provide these important services. I am deeply concerned about the Department of Labor’s regulation and its impacts on the wages and health of these workers, who are disproportionately women and people of color. I urge the New York State Department of Labor to not make this regulation permanent and I stand with the ‘Ain’t I A Woman Campaign’ and support their efforts to protect women workers in our state,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon.

Added State Assemblymember Harvey Epstein,”The proposal to codify these regulations flies in the faces of multiple appellate court judges who agree that home care aides should be afforded the dignity and fair compensation that all workers deserve. These regulations hurt workers, patients, and their families. That’s not what we stand for here in New York.”

Workers and supporters are urging the NYSDOL to:

  • Rescind the emergency regulation, and stop resisting the court’s rulings
  • Demand insurance companies and home care agencies immediately comply with the court decisions and compensate the home attendants for stolen wages

Abolish the 24-hour workday —patients requiring 24 hours of care should be provided split shifts of 12 hours each to allow home attendants time to rest and patients to receive proper care.

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