WASHINGTON - The Obama administration approved new rules Tuesday that extend minimum wage and overtime pay to nearly 2 million home health-care workers who help the elderly and disabled with everyday tasks such as bathing, eating or taking medicine.

Home care aides have been exempt from federal wage laws since 1974, when they were when they were placed in the same category as neighborhood baby sitters. But their ranks have surged with the aging population and the field is now one of the fastest-growing professions. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the workers deserve the same legal protections as most other employees.

"Home care workers are no longer treated like teenage baby sitters performing casual employment under this final rule," Perez said. "They are treated with dignity, and their hard work is indeed rewarded."

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But some health-care companies claim new overtime requirements will make it tougher for families to afford home care for their aging parents. Lobbyists for the $84 billion industry argue the new requirements could reduce the quality of care and even lower the take-home pay of caregivers if companies decide not to send workers out for shifts longer than eight hours.

The new rules will take effect in January 2015, a move Perez said will give time for states and industry providers to adjust to the new requirements. New wage and hour rules typically take effect within 60 days after final approval. The rules cover home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants who provide care to the elderly and people with injuries, illnesses and disabilities.

Jodi Sturgeon, president of PHI PolicyWorks, a nonprofit group that seeks to improve conditions for home care workers, called the new rules a "tremendous victory" for home care aides earning near-poverty wages. She estimated that by 2020, the country would need about 4 million home care aides to meet the needs of its graying population. The number of Americans over 65 is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years.

SUBHEAD: Home health workers are added to wage protection regulations.

Original Print Headline: Minimum wage rules extended

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