Photo: SKIP DICKSTEIN
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NEW YORK — A pair of downstate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would ban 24-hour workdays and bolster working conditions for home health aides and other workers who provide care to the elderly, ill and disabled at home.
The legislation, sponsored by state Sen. Roxanne Persaud and Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, comes more than six months after New York’s highest court upheld a state Department of Labor regulation that allows home health care workers to get paid for only 13 hours of a 24-hour shift, so long as they are afforded an eight-hour sleep break and three hours of meal breaks.
But home health care aides say they are forced to work through those breaks, and that the state’s so-called “13 Hour Rule” has allowed their employers to get away with not paying them for every hour worked.
The bill introduced Wednesday would ban the 24-hour workday and require employers to implement split shifts of no more than 12 hours for patients who require around-the-clock home care.
It also prohibits employers from punishing workers who refuse to work overtime, and allows them to bring civil action against any employer who violates this right.
The bill has been framed as a win for both workers and patients.
“When home care workers are too fatigued or become chronically ill from lack of proper rest and sleep, care recipients — those approved for 24-hour care and among the neediest of clients — are less likely to receive proper treatment and safe care,” the bill justification text reads.
The Home Care Association of New York State, which represents employers and industry interests, suggested Wednesday that the bill’s requirements could be difficult to implement since the majority of home care workers are paid through Medicaid, a state-funded program.
“As a result, the state’s Medicaid expenditures for home care worker wage liabilities would have to increase many-fold to cover any new cost obligations that this bill would cause at a time when the state is otherwise looking to constrain Medicaid spending,” HCA spokesman Roger Noyes said.
A media advisory about the bill states that there are currently 239,500 home care workers in New York, many of them women and immigrants. Approximately 8 percent of them work 24 hours a day, multiple days in a row, it states.
“With the growing population of those who need home care, this number is likely to grow,” it reads.
This bill encompasses workers whose titles are home care aide, home health aide, personal care aide, personal care attendant or home attendant, and other licensed or unlicensed individuals whose primary responsibility includes providing in-home help with activities of daily living.