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Sleep and meals do not count as work in 24-hour shifts

In the state of New York, there is a long-standing practice that if a home care attendant works a 24-hour shift, their employer need only pay them for 13 hours of work. This is because the remaining 11 hours are spent, presumably, eating meals and sleeping. Although this practice has been the legal precedent in New York for years, two recent court cases nearly toppled it entirely.

After hearing the lawsuits, the New York Appeals Court ruled that home health care providers were required to pay live-in attendants a full 24 hours of wages, including the time spent eating and sleeping. The ruling also would have entitled caregivers to receive back wages. This might have had major negative consequences for the home care industry. The cost of supplying back pay as well as 11 additional hours of wages could have been insurmountable for providers.

Following the court's decision, the Department of Labor issued an emergency regulation upholding the 13-hour standard. According to a statement from the DOL, their decision to uphold the practice was based on concern that the court's ruling could have been disastrous for health agencies. In its statement, the Department of Labor wrote that maintaining the 13-hour rule was necessary to "prevent the collapse of the home care industry" completely.

For the time being, home care agencies will be able to continue providing 24-hour care at a reasonable price for their clients. Though the 13-hour rule remains safe for now, providers are still uncertain about the future of back pay for live-in attendants. The cost of providing back wages could be staggering.

In light of these recent legal developments, it is important for home health providers to have an advocate to fight for their best interests. The attorneys at Rivas Goldstein, LLP have extensive experience in health care law. You can contact their New York offices to seek legal counsel today.

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