Facebook Instagram Twitter YouTube

Why Are Home Health Aides Working 24-Hour Shifts and Only Receiving Pay for 13 Hours?

Home health aides in New York are currently allowed, by law, to get paid for only half of a daylong shift.

Rohit Chandan

February 20, 2019
Facebook Twitter Share
Credit: Ain't I a Woman campaign

Home health aides in New York are currently allowed, by law, to get paid for only half of a daylong shift. However, as a result of several years of struggle, two cases in the New York Court of Appeals, Andryeyeva and Moreno, could put an end to this gross exploitative practice.

Currently, home health aides work 24 hour shifts but only get paid for 13 of those hours. Home healthcare agencies are able to pay below minimum wage largely due to the New York Department of Labor (NYSDOL). Initially, NYSDOL created an opinion letter (which is an official letter written by an agency that explains how they interpret certain rules and regulations), in which they interpreted New York’s Wage Order (23 NYCRR 142-2.1) as saying that home health aides can work 24 hour shifts and be paid for 13 hours if they are afforded 8 hours of sleep, 5 of which are uninterrupted, and 3 hours for meals.

However, home health aides, along with various organizations that are a part of the Ain’t I A Woman campaign!?, opposed this interpretation by arguing that under New York minimum wage laws, they are legally entitled to minimum wage “for the time an employee is permitted to work, or is required to be available for work at a place prescribed by the employer, and shall include time spent in traveling to the extent that such traveling is part of the duties of the employee” (12 CRR-NY 142-2.1).

In the case Andryeyeva v New York Health Care, Inc. (and Moreno v Future Care Health Servs., Inc., the ruling of which was similar to Andryeyeva) the courts agreed with this argument and ruled that NYSDOL’s opinion letter is “neither rational nor reasonable” because it goes against the minimum wage laws, i.e., the Wage Order.

NYSDOL was rattled by this decision and enacted an “emergency amendment” stating that when home health aides work 24 hour shifts, they do not need to be paid for meal breaks and sleep periods, known as the “13 hour rule”. An emergency amendment is different than an opinion letter, because while an opinion letter interprets a regulation, an emergency amendment actually creates a new regulation. However, because NYSDOL’s emergency amendment wasn’t actually a response to an emergency, the court (in Chinese Staff and Workers Assn. v. Reardon) ruled that under the NYS Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA), the rule is invalid.

It’s troubling that the NYSDOL is eager to fight against workers on this matter. The agency has had multiple opportunities to either drop their rule or revise it to support workers. Instead, NYSDOL took the route of making it as difficult as possible for home health aides to receive their wages. The agency’s decision is especially egregious because home care workers tend to come from some of the most marginalized populations. According to The Nation, “New York’s more than 300,000-strong home-care and personal-care workforces are set to balloon about 45 and 30 percent, respectively, between 2014 and 2024. About half of these workers, mostly women of color and immigrants, live at or near the poverty level, earning only around $11 per hour, and many depend on public benefits for health care and food assistance.”

NYSDOL is aware that women of color and immigrants are often bullied by employers through sexual harassment, lower pay, and threats of deportation; yet the agency, largely controlled by Governor Cuomo, has chosen not to help protect these workers against the grinding gears of capitalist hyper-exploitation.

These very same women workers have come forward after years of exploitation in the home care industry and are striking fear in agency bosses and state officials by leading the charge to fight for their rights and shake up the industry. Many have called on other workers to unite with them to force the status quo to change.

“I absolutely want the 24 hour work day system to be eliminated, and demand to get compensation for all the 24 hour work that I did with blood and sweat,” says home care worker Zhu Qin Chen.

Many of these challenges could begin to be resolved if the state and federal government simply increased the reimbursement rate to home health agencies, which would amount to wage increases for the workers to mitigate years of state-sponsored wage theft.

Thus far, past rulings and testimony by workers have made it unequivocally clear that home health aides who work 24 hour shifts typically do not receive 8 hours of rest and a meal break because they are responsible for their patients at all times and must be alert to provide assistance.

“We are taking care of patients all day, all night. I’ve never slept all night. You’re checking the patient every 2 hours. You’re vigilant, ready to help them. I treat the patient like I would like to be cared for and how I would like my mother to be cared for,” home care worker Daisy Castillo said during a press conference before a recent court hearing.

If the Court of Appeals rules in favor of the workers, they will be one step closer to receiving the wages they have earned. However, many of the workers and the members of the Ain’t I A Woman!? campaign say that pay for 24 hours is not enough, and that the 24 hour workday itself is inhumane and should be eliminated.

“24 hour shifts take time away that workers could be spending with their families and on their wellbeing. The Ain’t I A Woman campaign is focused on fighting for workers’ control over their time. What these home care workers are experiencing is only one example of a greater trend all workers are facing: less time for ourselves and more time for our bosses,” said Leona Rajaee of NYC DSA, an endorser and organizer of the Ain’t I A Woman campaign.

Facebook Twitter Share

Guest Posts

The Tide Is Turning: New Yorkers Are Speaking Out for Palestinian Liberation

New York's anti-zionist movement is is rising up and speaking out for Palestinian liberation.

Ana Orozco

February 23, 2024
Protesters at the University of Michigan holding Palestine flags and a big banner that reads "DIVEST."

University of Michigan Faculty Senate Approves Divestment Resolution

The University of Michigan Faculty Senate recently passed a measure calling for divestment from companies investing in Israel's attacks on Gaza. Will the university’s capitalist bosses change course and support democratic demands to stop funding genocide?

Ryan McCarty

February 4, 2024

If Palestinian Lives Matter, the UAW Should Not Endorse Biden

The UAW bureaucracy is meeting in Washington DC, where they are discussing, among other things, whether to endorse Joe Biden for president. If the UAW cares about its own call for a ceasefire in Gaza, it should refuse to endorse Biden (as well as Trump).

Daniel Nath

January 23, 2024
Scenic sunset over the Mediterranean Sea

Yearning Waves: A Palestinian’s Tale of Dreams and the Stolen Sea

A Palestinian shares his pain and sadness over the hoops he must jump through in order to experience his own land.


Three activists stand together while one activist holds up an "uncommitted" sign with the word "vote" written on it many times. In the left side of the picture another activist holds a sign that says "abandon Genocide Joe"

Don’t Vote Uncommitted — Commit to Breaking with the Democrats

Tapping into deep anger with President Biden, the left wing of the Democratic Party is urging Michigan voters to vote “uncommitted” in the primary election. But this strategy funnels progressives’ energy back into the Democratic party when we need political independence from the parties supporting the genocide in Gaza.

Brian H. Silverstein

February 27, 2024
Protesters at an evening protest in NY carry a sign that reads "from ferguson to palestine occupation is a crime"

This Black History Month, Let’s Fight for Palestinian Liberation

Black liberation struggles have always expressed solidarity with the struggle against the Zionist occupation of Palestine. This Black History Month, as Israel continues its genocide in Gaza, this tradition takes on a special importance.

Carmin Maffea

February 26, 2024
All That's Left, the podcast from Left Voice.

#AllThatsLeftPod: Two Years of War in Ukraine

On this episode of the podcast, we discuss the war in Ukraine after two years, and the continued need for an independent, working-class solution.

Left Voice

February 24, 2024

The Organic Crisis in 2024: This Year’s Election Is a Battle for the Hearts and Minds of U.S. Workers

The battle between Trump and Biden is being shaped by a crisis of the political regime, requiring the intervention of both the judiciary and the union bureaucracy. The battle for the presidency is a battle for the working class and a battle over which approach to imperialism is best for competing with China and reestablishing US hegemony. As usual, the Democrats are taking up the cudgel of democratic rights in order to rally disaffected voters.

Sybil Davis

February 23, 2024