Labor Department Refocuses on Direct Care Workers’ Wages, Rights

The U.S. Department of Labor has launched initiatives to ensure that home-based, paid caregivers receive rightful wages and that legal protections are upheld. This will include education, outreach and enforcement components.

Home-based caregivers have worked on the frontlines of the pandemic and often faced exposures to the virus. These workers are disproportionately women of color and are among the lowest paid workers in health care, according to the Labor Department.

“Professional caregivers have always been and continue to be some of our nation’s most essential workers. We look to them to care for us and our families and they deserve our appreciation, respect and protection,” said Acting Wage and Hour Administrator Jessica Looman. “The education, outreach and enforcement initiative we are announcing today will help ensure the rights of all workers are protected and employers who flout the law are held accountable.”


Labor’s Wage and Hour Division will lead the initiative, educating caregivers about their rights to a minimum wage as well as overtime pay and instructing them how to file a complaint if they feel their employers have violated employment rules.

Federal regulators will also be watching for signs that health care employers are wrongfully classifying these workers as independent contractors, which the Labor Department indicates can deprive them of legally earned wages and other benefits.

During Fiscal Year 2021, the Wage and Labor Division recovered more than $38.7 million in back wages for health care industry workers due to misclassification as independent contractors, a violation that has been growing more prevalent in recent years, according to the Labor Department.


The division will also conduct outreach to form partnerships with state and local agencies and other stakeholders to ensure that employers understand their responsibilities in relation to caregivers’ rights.

Nearly 20 million adults in the United States require assistance completing self-care and other daily tasks due to physical, cognitive, developmental or behavioral conditions, according to research from the senior care advocacy group PHI.

This includes 17 million living in the community, 1.5 million residing in nursing homes and almost 1 million in residential care. PHI projected that the number of people needing this type of assistance will rise in coming decades as the 65 and older population increases dramatically.