Department Of Consumer Affairs’ Releases Reports On Paid Care Workers In NYC

The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Lorelei Salas (pictured) today announced the release of a report by its Office of Labor Policy & Standards (OLPS) titled Lifting up Paid Care Work: Year One of New York City’s Paid Care Division.

The report provides an analysis of what the City’s Paid Care Division has learned, model standards for paid care jobs, an overview of its accomplishments, and a roadmap for action it plans to take in the years to come as the Paid Care Division concludes its first year. In partnership with Ruth Milkman of The City University of New York, DCA also released the Making Paid Care Work Visible report, which, using focus group and survey results, details the concerns of New York City’s home-based paid care workers whose voices are too often unheard or disregarded by policymakers or by the wider public. Home-based paid care work is a rapidly growing field of employment in New York City and across the nation; paid care workers provide essential care to children, the elderly and disabled, as well as basic services like house cleaning. Yet this type of work is notorious for low pay and status, leaving workers economically insecure, vulnerable, and disrespected. Together, today’s reports provide critical insight into the growing need for OLPS’ role in the development of innovative policies that raise job standards, and for the Paid Care Division to expand its outreach and educational resources to workers and employers alike in its second year.

The Paid Care Division, housed within the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and its Office of Labor Policy & Standards, is the only governmental office in the United States charged with raising job standards in care industries. The Division works in partnership with paid care worker organizations, employers, and other stakeholders to engage in policy development, outreach and education for workers and employers, intake and referral to outside resources for paid care workers, and original research. The Paid Care Division also draws on DCA resources and enforcement authority, including its enforcement of NYC’s Paid Sick Leave Law, to meet care workers’ needs and elevate their important work.

“Because of the critical services care workers provide, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers can get to work and school every day knowing their children, their elderly parents or grandparents, their friend or neighbor with a disability, and their homes are in good hands,” said DCA Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “And yet, our city’s nannies, house cleaners, and home care aides face exploitative working conditions and violations of longstanding labor standards including minimum wage and overtime laws on a daily basis. Over the past year, our Office of Labor Policy & Standards has taken action to strengthen the care system for those who work in it, and for those who rely on it, through extensive education and outreach, research, and enforcement efforts to ensure that all workers are aware of their rights, and have access to tools to exercise them. We plan to use these reports to develop policy initiatives that will further improve working conditions for paid care workers and address their financial health.”

“This report not only details the struggles that paid care workers face on a daily basis, it also gives us insight on how we can best develop policies that will improve standards and working conditions for these workers,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen. “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues in the City Council and the Department of Consumer Affairs to ensure that the highest standards are being implemented for paid care workers throughout the city.”

“Every day, countless New Yorkers increasingly rely on paid care workers to fill the gaps that our demanding lives create,” said Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “The unique challenges of the industry must be highlighted and corrected, and this report is a great start towards that goal. I am proud to see this report come to life through the fervent efforts of the City University of New York and the Department of Consumer Affairs, and am confident that the lessons we have learned will net common sense policies that will heighten the quality of working conditions for these dedicated men and women. As Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor, I remain deeply committed to securing additional protections for this industry.”

“Caregivers are some of the most hardworking, selfless workers in New York City, which is why we need to revitalize the conversation about how our City is taking care of them,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin, Chair of the Committee on Aging. “The new report released by the Office of Labor Policy and Standards at the Department of Consumer Affairs highlights the latest efforts of the City’s Paid Care Division, while setting a road map for what more needs to be done to expand the rights and protections of these workers, and ensure that these rights are realized by all. Thank you to Commissioner Salas and DCA for your work to increase the visibility of the struggles and stories of this critical part of our workforce.”

“In New York City there are almost half a million residents over the age of 75, and that number is growing,” said State Senator Liz Krueger. “Many of them will need a paid care worker to support them as they age. Thank you to the Department of Consumer Affairs for helping to ensure that paid care workers are protected, have quality jobs, and are paid fairly. Quality jobs mean quality care for older New Yorkers and their families.”

Home health aides are ranked first in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent projections of occupations that will grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, with estimated growth of 46.7 percent over that decade; personal care aides are in second place, with projected growth of 37.4 percent.

Home health aides are ranked first in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent projections of occupations that will grow the fastest between 2016 and 2026, with estimated growth of 46.7 percent over that decade; personal care aides are in second place, with projected growth of 37.4 percent. And yet the home healthcare industry, which is plagued with exploitative working conditions and the isolation of working in private homes, is largely overlooked by the general public and policymakers. To help drive the research in the “Lifting up Paid Care Work: Year One of New York City’s Paid Care Division” report, DCA collaborated with The Worker Institute at Cornell ILR School, National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the NYC Commission on Human Rights (The Commission), and the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA) to design a survey for paid care workers, which DCA administered at three convenings and at focus group sessions. The “Making Paid Care Work Visible” report is based on a series of 12 focus groups with 115 home care aides, nannies, and house cleaners. Together, these reports help shine a light on the many labor concerns plaguing this industry including low wages, labor violations, and an overall lack of respect for paid care workers.

“As an organization that represents thousands of domestic workers in New York City, we know firsthand how important it is to listen to the voices of care workers,” said Marrisa Senteno, Enforcement Program Manager, National Domestic Workers Alliance. “Last year, NDWA collaborated directly with the Division of Paid Care to ensure that care workers are heard at every part of the process in shaping much needed access to resources, research, enforcement and policy recommendations for New York City’s careforce. It is the kind of innovative thinking by OLPS that is leading the way in modeling how city agencies can work directly with community based organizations and key stakeholders to ensure that care workers are truly valued as the work that makes all other work possible.”

“As a union representing 75,000 home care workers in New York City with collective bargaining agreements guaranteeing paid time off and other benefits, including health insurance, we would like to congratulate the Division of Paid Care on its 1st annual report and ongoing work ensuring that all NYC employers comply with the Earned Sick Leave Act, and standing up for those workers who may not otherwise have a voice,” said Rona Shapiro, Executive Vice President, Homecare Division, 1199SEIU. “We look forward to a continued partnership.”

“The National Employment Law Project (NELP) applauds New York City’s Office of Labor and Policy Standards for their innovative approaches to making sure the city’s public policies value paid caregivers,” said Caitlin Connolly, Home Care Fair Pay Campaign Coordinator, NELP. “In creating the Division of Paid Care, New York demonstrated how research, enforcement, and outreach can help to ensure workers’ rights are upheld. The city recognizes that workers, families, older adults, people with disabilities, and employers all benefit when standards are raised. Communities and our economy win when home care workers are paid livable wages, provided benefits, have consistent schedules, and are supported in the essential work they do. We applaud the NYC OLPS Division of Paid Care for their commitment to making NYC a place where caregivers are given the respect they deserve.”

“New York City’s Paid Care division is leading the way for other cities and states around the country by supporting paid care workers and ensuring they have the resources to succeed in their jobs and provide quality care,” said Jodi M. Sturgeon, President, PHI. “The Division’s collaborative approach with employers, advocates, and other stakeholders will help achieve lasting, system-wide change.”

“For the past 11 years the Center For Family Life’s Cooperative Development Program has organized community members to create worker-owned cooperative businesses with the mission of social and economic justice, primarily in domestic work industries,” said Rachel Isreeli, Cooperative Development Program, Center for Family Life SCO Family of Services. “These cooperatives directly challenge the historical exploitation in the industry, as worker-owners cultivate systems of mutual support, democratic management, and ongoing education to leverage collective resources and resist systemic disempowerment. We are excited to collaborate with the City’s Paid Care Division in prioritizing workers’ needs through policy, education and enforcement.”

“As employers of domestic workers, we understand first-hand how vital the care workforce is – whether you’re a working parent struggling to juggle family and your job and needing support for childcare or housework, or you’re a senior or person with a disability who needs home care support to live comfortably and safely in your home, paid care workers make it possible,” said Tatiana Bejar, NY Organizer, Hand in Hand: The Domestic Employers Network. “At the same time, workers who help form the backbone of our families’ and communities’ well-being, and of our economy, are deeply underpaid, lack basic health benefits and paid leave, can be subject to exploitation and abuse due to lack of oversight, and are often unable to support themselves and their own families. We are honored to partner with OPLS to build a new care sector that could be a model for the rest of the nation: a sector that provides affordable and accessible care for all who need it and provides workers with the living-wage jobs, benefits, and supports they need to care for their own families. At this political moment, New York needs to take the lead in building a care and support infrastructure that works better for everyone.”

In 2017, the Division also established and convened a working group of key stakeholders from paid care industries. Members include domestic worker leaders and advocates, employers, City agencies, unions, and policy think tanks, all of whom have an interest in building and maintaining an interdependent paid care system that provides access to quality, affordable care along with good paid care jobs. Members worked strategically and collaboratively to develop a set of model standards for paid care jobs, listing 14 requirements in five broad categories: fair compensation, security and opportunity, health and safety, right to organize, no limitations on workers’ rights under the law. Many of the standards are already required by law but are often not realized in practice. Other standards go beyond existing legal minimums, affirming that current regulations do not go far enough to protect these vulnerable and often isolated workers.

Fair Compensation

A Fair Wage: Paid care workers should, at a minimum, enjoy sufficient income to meet their families’ basic needs. This must include an adequate regular wage, but may also include additional supports, such as tax credits, food stamps, or access to subsidized or rent-regulated housing. Data, provided by NYC Opportunity’s Poverty Research Unit and analyzed by the Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Labor Policy & Standards, suggests that most care workers require at least $25,000 per year in pre-tax earnings to clear New York City’s poverty threshold, and $40,000 to clear its near poverty threshold. If workers cannot access health insurance through their job or a public program, they require additional income above these amounts

Paid Time Off: Paid care workers should receive sufficient paid time off to ensure they are rested, healthy, and that they have sufficient time to spend with family and take care of personal matters. Paid time off includes paid sick leave for workers to care for themselves and family members, parental leave, paid holidays, and annual leave for vacation, personal days, and travel.

Payment for All Hours Worked: Paid care workers should receive payment for all hours worked, including the entire time a worker is required to be at a care recipient’s residence during a 24-hour shift. Ensuring payment for all hours worked increases financial security for care workers and properly compensates them for time spent tending to the needs of their clients or being available to do so at a moment’s notice. Policymakers, together with other stakeholders, must rise to the challenge of providing sufficient funding to ensure that families can meet their needs without having to rely on the unpaid work of agency or household employees.

Health Insurance: Paid care workers should have access to quality, affordable health care to help safeguard their own health, their family’s health, and that of the families in their care.

Security and Opportunity

Training and Career Advancement: Paid care workers should have access to free or low-cost training and education, which will improve job quality, the quality of care provided, and workers’ opportunities for career advancement. Workers with advanced qualifications in paid care fields should receive elevated compensation in return.

Consistent Schedules: Paid care workers should have consistent, dependable schedules. Predictability helps workers stay out of debt, meet the child and elder care needs of their own families, further their educations, pursue additional jobs, and make the most of their time away from work.

Financial Protection for Job Loss: Paid care workers should receive advance notice of dismissal, severance pay, and unemployment insurance that covers job loss as well as income changes from reduced hours. These protections are essential for sustaining families through periods of reduced income. They also provide the security workers need to assert their rights at work and pursue future opportunities.

Health and Safety

Right to a Safe and Healthy Workplace: Paid care workers should enjoy health and safety protections in the workplace. This means that paid care workers have a right to a workplace free from known hazards, health and safety training in a language workers can understand, and access to appropriate protective and assistive equipment free of charge.

Workers’ Compensation: Paid care workers should receive coverage under workers’ compensation insurance on par with other workers, regardless of their weekly work hours.

Dignified Work Environment

Protection from Discrimination and Harassment: Paid care workers should be protected from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation during hiring and on the job.

Defined Responsibilities: Written work agreements, whether collectively bargained or individually negotiated, allow paid care workers, clients, and employers to be on the same page about their expectations, create and sustain a professional working relationship, and build trust between all parties.

Recognition for the Emotional Demands of Paid Care Work: Paid care workers should receive recognition for the unique emotional demands of their work, including appropriate accommodations around the end of a relationship with an employer or client.

Right to Organize

Legal Protection for Workers Engaging in Collective Action: All workers should have a voice in the terms and conditions of their employment—and the right to demand changes through collective action. Existing laws either outright exclude or significantly limit many workers’ ability to exercise these rights in a meaningful way. Through support for direct organizing, issue campaigns, and the development of new policies, employers, clients, and government should acknowledge and support workers’ collective action to make change in their workplaces and industries, free from coercion, harassment, or retaliation.

No Limitations on Workers’ Rights under the Law

Individually negotiated work agreements should never restrict or waive a paid care worker’s legal rights or protections. Unless collectively bargained, mandatory arbitration clauses, class-action waivers, non-compete agreements, and similar restrictions on workers’ rights are by their nature coercive, stifling both individual and collective efforts to improve job conditions. Similarly, work agreements should never provide for independent contractor classification for paid care workers except in the limited circumstances permitted by law.

Education and outreach is a top priority for the Paid Care Division and, in its first year, they engaged with workers and community organizations across all five boroughs at more than 120 separate events and distributed over 28,500 informational worker materials.

Education and outreach is a top priority for the Paid Care Division and, in its first year, they engaged with workers and community organizations across all five boroughs at more than 120 separate events and distributed over 28,500 informational worker materials. The Paid Care Division also collaborated with over 20 community partners, worker organizations, and City agencies to host three large-scale convenings of care workers. At these convenings, 500 nannies, house cleaners, and home care aides gathered to learn about services and resources, participate in know-your-rights programs, practice interview skills, receive negotiation training, and discuss shared experiences, challenges, and strategies for how they can raise standards across their sectors.

With the goal of ensuring workers know their rights, and have access to tools to exercise them, the primary focus of the Paid Care Division’s outreach and education efforts going forward will be further development of partnerships with groups organizing and serving paid care workers. The Paid Care Division plans to host joint events with partners to engage both workers and employers, identify opportunities to sponsor or support partner organizations’ policy and organizing campaigns, and pursue other creative strategies to reach a broad base of paid care workers through multimedia and other communications tools. Some other goals for the Division’s second year include assessing the ways in which OLPS’ legal services program might better respond to and address the unique enforcement challenges in care workplace settings, vigorously enforcing the paid sick leave law on behalf of paid care workers, and working with stakeholders to identify new policies the City can adopt to raise the prevailing standards in paid care jobs.

OLPS is also taking proactive measures to investigate industries with high levels of complaints; in July 2017, OLPS launched an investigation into nearly 40 home healthcare agencies across the city that represent upwards of 33,000 workers. This shift to a strategic enforcement model will help address many of the rampant wage and hour abuses that workers voiced in their testimony.

Through DCA, the de Blasio Administration continues to lead the nation on advocacy around the importance of municipal workplace rights and protections. OLPS is the largest municipal labor standards office in the country with a robust staff of attorneys, investigators, outreach and education specialists, as well as research and policy analysts. OLPS enforces, implements, and works on the development of a new generation of minimum labor standards for a stronger city. It focuses on ensuring all workers can realize these rights, regardless of immigration status. In September 2017, OLPS released a report The State of Workers’ Rights in New York City,” which summarizes the testimony of 110 workers given during a public hearing convened by DCA in April 2017, in collaboration with the New York City Commission on Human Rights and the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). Through their testimony, workers articulated the many challenges and concerns facing immigrant, paid care, and contingent workers. OLPS is implementing and/or enforcing a number of municipal workplace laws, including the Paid Sick Leave Law, the Freelance Isn’t Free ActFair Workweek and Fast Food Deductions laws,Commuter Benefits Law, the City Living and Prevailing Wage Laws, and the Grocery Workers Retention Act.

For more information about DCA and its work, call 311 or visit DCA at nyc.gov/dca 

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