Underpaid At-Home Caregivers File Lawsuit Against Employer
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is reporting a story coming out of the U.S. District Court in Little Rock concerning underpaid caregivers who have filed a lawsuit against Palco, a financial management services company headquartered in Arkansas that provides support to Medicaid recipients across several states. The business has clients such as veterans, the elderly, and children who participate in at-home and community-based services and require help with daily living tasks. The suit is seeking class-action status on behalf of all people who were paid as caregivers by the company under the Independent Choices Medicaid program within the past three years.
According to the state Department of Human Services, Independent Choices assist about 3,000 Medicaid recipients who receive in-home services in processing payroll and guides recipients in paying workers who help them, most of who are often family or friends. The lawsuit says the plaintiffs and other workers have regularly worked more than 40 hours a week and weren’t paid one-and-a-half times their regular wage by their employer as required under the Fair Labors Standards Act (FLSA). Medicaid recipients are only the employer if they hired the home care worker directly, and no agency or other organization is involved, such as Palco.
At-home care workers allow a loved one to stay in their home, providing services like bathing, dressing, shopping, medication management, and transportation. An Obama-era policy attempted to fix some at-home caregiver pay hurdles under the FLSA’s “Home Care Final Rule” which states most home care workers must be paid at least the federal minimum wage, and overtime pay.
Not Palco’s First Lawsuit Regarding Worker Wages
A 2016 lawsuit filed in federal court by a former Palco financial counselor claimed that the company failed to pay her and other counselors for the time spent traveling to Medicaid recipients’ homes. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “Without admitting wrongdoing, the company settled the case last year, agreeing to pay 22 people who had worked as financial counselors a total of $17,925, along with $6,575 in attorney fees and costs.”
Care staff who are consistently taken for granted, overworked and underpaid help create an easy environment for vulnerable individuals to become neglected, abused, and mistreated. This is an especially alarming trend noted in people who are older and have more complex care needs than the population of twenty years ago. To resolute these problems, we must demand better employment strategies to influence both a caregiver’s well-being and the quality of the services they provide to others.
Home Care Workers Have the Right to Be Compensated
For over 25 years, the attorneys of Levin & Perconti have worked with nursing assistants and personal care givers to protect their rights. Personal care assistants have tough jobs and they must be paid at least the federal minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In addition, the Home Care Final Rule makes sure that home care workers have the same basic wage protections as most U.S. workers, including those who perform the same jobs in nursing homes and group homes. Better wages for home care workers will also help to ensure that patients will have access to high-quality care in their homes from a supportive, accountable and valued workforce.
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