By TOM RAUM
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it is delaying enforcement of its initiative to extend minimum-wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly 2 million home-care workers.
The new rules, an initiative of President Barack Obama, are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015. The Labor Department said it is keeping the effective date but won’t enforce the new rules against any employer for the first six months. And, from June-December 2015, it said will consider enforcing the rules on a case-by-case basis.
The agency said that over those 12 months the department would engage in “extensive outreach and technical assistance efforts,” including working with states on how to carry out the new protections.
Advocates for low-wage workers have long pressed for this coverage, especially for workers who care for elderly and disabled Americans.
A group representing these workers criticized the decision to put off enforcing the new rule, saying the delay would fall hardest on low-income women, who make up the largest percentage of the home-care workforce.
“Home care workers _ the backbone of the nation’s long-term care system _ deserve better,” said Jodi M. Sturgeon, president of the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the National Employment Law Project praised the agency for not formally extending the Jan. 1 deadline.
“In opting not to delay the effective date of the new rule, Secretary Perez and the Labor Department are signaling that home care workers have waited long enough for the fundamental right to a fair wage, and they will no longer be denied,” said project Executive Director Christine Owens. “The six-month enforcement suspension gives employers extra time to get their act together, but they should be under no illusions about their responsibility to follow through on these important reforms.”
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