Wage theft in the home care industry in the US is a rampant issue, with high reports among workers of overtime violations, working without getting paid and minimum wage violations. Some 554 wage theft violations filed with the New York department of labor from home care workers total over $64.5m, with estimates the industry owes billions of dollars to home care workers for the unpaid 11 hours of 24 hour shifts.
Workers and advocates have criticized the ongoing use of 24 hour-shifts, citing it’s a racist and sexist practice permitting the exploitation of a workforce largely consisting of immigrant women of color.
Home care workers are paid through Medicaid funding, with worker advocates claiming the current system benefits insurance companies and home care agencies at the expense of the workers. Assemblyman Harvey Epstein estimated it would cost Medicaid an additional $1bn a year to cover the cost of the rest of the 24 hour shift, money which he noted was being saved by Medicaid and the state off the backs of the workers not receiving pay for those hours.
“The insurance companies and agencies benefit from this system. We don’t know exactly how much money goes to the agencies and insurance companies,” said JoAnn Lum, an organizer with National Mobilization Against Sweatshops “The attitudes to justify or rationalize these abusive conditions are part of a racist, sexist perspective in our society to maintain these 24-hour shifts that don’t value or recognize the workers to address those conditions.”