Caring for Caregivers

Healthcare workers are the unsung heroes who care for those who can’t always take care of themselves, including older adults, people with disabilities and children with special needs.

As the Department of Labor observes National Home Care and Hospice Month and National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, we’re reaffirming our commitment to protecting healthcare workers’ rights year-round. In fiscal year 2022, the Wage and Hour Division concluded more than 1,100 investigations in the health care industry, recovering nearly $15 million in back wages for more than 22,000 workers. We’ve maintained our focus on these essential workers in 2023, and we’ll continue to do so in 2024.

Headshot of Melyssa Scott, smiling in front of a brick wall.America counts on healthcare workers in so many ways, so we want those workers to know that they can also count on us. Home healthcare worker Melyssa Scott learned this from personal experience during a recent investigation that recovered more than $71,000 in hard-earned wages for her and 15 coworkers at Golden Generation LLC in Augusta, Georgia.

While working long hours to take care of people with disabilities, Melyssa wasn’t paid an overtime rate when she worked more than 40 hours in a week. Eventually, she found the courage to call us and report the overtime violations.

“I received more than $11,000 in back wages and it helped me pay my bills and get caught up. I was struggling and the money helped me put groceries on the table,” said Scott. “The investigator was very sweet. She explained everything to me as in depth as she could, and she always returned my calls quickly. She constantly provided me with updates on the investigation process.”

After standing up for her rights and getting justice, Melyssa believes other healthcare workers should be their own advocates as well.

“I learned that employers cannot take advantage of their employees, and that I have somewhere to call if I feel my rights are being violated,” Melyssa added. “I would tell anyone who feels like their rights are being violated to call. By speaking up, you might help others in your workplace who are afraid to do so.”

We agree with Melyssa – and workers can call us confidentially at 1-866-487-9243 to discuss their questions and concerns or to file a complaint.

Healthcare workers like Melyssa are working in nearly every community across the country. And the vast majority of them are women. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 86.7% of the 617,000 home health aides in the U.S. in 2022 were women. Not only that, but disproportionate numbers of these workers come from underserved groups – 32.5% are African American, 11.1% are Asian American and 28.9% are Hispanic or Latino. With numbers like these, it’s imperative that the Wage and Hour Division stays focused on protecting these workers’ rights to advance equity nationwide.

Our commitment to defending healthcare workers’ rights extends beyond enforcement. Our outreach efforts are dedicated to educating employers, workers and advocates about the law throughout the country. We urge these stakeholders to contact our outreach specialists for compliance assistance resources, workers’ rights information or to ask about upcoming outreach events in their area.

Steven Salazar is the district director at the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division office in Atlanta, Georgia. Follow the division on LinkedIn and on X at @WHD_DOL.