Know your rights under the federal wage and hour laws.
Home health workers have a difficult job. They work long hours, perform physically demanding duties, are constantly on the road, and usually receive low pay and benefits. Unfortunately, home health agencies are also notorious for skirting state and federal wage and hour laws, taking money right out of aides' pockets.
It's critical for home health aides to understand their legal rights under the wage and hour laws as well as the types of recourse they can pursue when those rights are violated. If you believe your employer has violated your rights, contact us today for a free case evaluation. We can help.
Common wage and hour violations in the home health industry
Home health aides are almost always hourly, non-exempt workers. That means they need to be paid at least the legal minimum wage for all hours worked, and they must be paid overtime (time and a half) for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. However, that is not always the case in practice. Some common wage and hour violations involving home health aides include:
- Unpaid overtime. Home health aides must be paid time and a half for all hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek. Home health agencies need to track workers' hours and make sure they are in compliance with the overtime laws. To comply with the law, a "workweek" must be a 7-day period that is the same from week to week; for instance, if your employer decides your workweek starts on Wednesday and ends on Tuesday, that is legal, but they can't keep switching the dates in order to pay less overtime. Home health agencies also need to carefully track all hours worked, including administrative tasks as well as direct patient care, in order to properly pay overtime.
- Unpaid travel time. By law, while your regular home-to-work commute does not have to be paid, all travel that is part of your job needs to be paid. Many home health aides don't even have a regular place of work to commute to; they spend their work day traveling to clients' homes. You should be paid at least the legal minimum wage for that travel time.
- Overnight work. Home health is not a 9-to-5 job, and some home health aides need to stay at their clients' homes overnight. By law, if your shift is less than 24 hours, the entire shift must be paid, even if there is a stretch of time when you are permitted to sleep. Shifts of over 24 hours can deduct up to 8 hours of unpaid sleep time, but only if certain criteria are met, including at least 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If your sleep is regularly interrupted (i.e., because a patient may require assistance overnight), then that time must be paid. In practice, we believe home health aides should be paid for the entire overnight shift in virtually all cases because they can rarely, if ever, depend on uninterrupted sleep.
- Misclassification as independent contractors. Home health aides are often misclassified as independent contractors to allow their employers to avoid paying overtime, minimum wage, and benefits. If your employer exercises significant control over your work, you have a permanent and exclusive relationship with a home health agency, and your services are an integral part of their business, there is a good chance you are misclassified and may have a claim for unpaid overtime and other costs.
If your employer has violated any of these laws, you may have a claim for unpaid work, unpaid overtime, or both. If other employees of the same company have been similarly underpaid, you may be able to pursue a class action on behalf of yourself and your coworkers. The only way to know your options is to speak with an experienced attorney who understands how these cases work.
If your rights have been violated, we can help
Home health aides play an essential role in our healthcare system and will only become more essential as the population continues to age. The wage and hour attorneys at Nilges Draher LLC are proud to stand up for home health aides in Ohio and nationwide whose rights have been violated. We have achieved significant results for home health aides, including a $1.5 million class action settlement for home health workers who were not paid for travel time. If you believe your rights have been violated, contact us today. We can help.