Friday, February 24, 2012

Letter to Department of Labor

The Department of Labor is proposing to apply the Fair Labor Standards Act to home care-givers, and force employers to pay the federal minimum wage.  This is just another example of our government striving ever so diligently to regulate every facet of our lives. 

This letter is my comment to the DOL regarding their proposal.  Anyone can submit a comment in response to a federal agency's proposal for rule-making.  It's our only chance to be heard before regulations become the law of the land.  Comments can be submitted here:

The Department of Labor’s proposal to force employers of home care-takers to pay the federal minimum wage is both unwarranted and counterproductive.  First, and most importantly, the care-giver and employer should be free to determine the terms of employment, including the amount of wages paid.  Tens of thousands of care-givers and employers enter into mutually beneficial exchange every day without government intervention.  In the absence of coercion, care-givers will agree to terms of employment only when they feel they are being adequately compensated for their labor.  Interference from the DOL will do little to improve these mutually beneficial arrangements.

Second, forcing employers, which are often small families, to pay the federal minimum wage would reduce employment of some care-givers.  In the face of higher costs, some families may opt to either reduce the hours worked by care-givers or forgo care-takers all together.  This would not only decrease employment opportunities for care-givers, but force families into sub-optimal choices for caring for family members.  Additionally, a one-size-fits-all minimum wage doesn’t appreciate the differences in regional wage rates nor does it consider the often substantial differences in work requirements placed upon care-givers.

Lastly, the federal minimum wage can too often become the “maximum” wage.  Some care-givers may experience substantial decreases in their wages if the minimum wage is forced on employers.  Some employers who currently pay care-givers more than the federal minimum wage may feel inclined to reduce those wages in the face of a federal minimum wage.  New employers in the market may balk at paying wages above the federal minimum, depriving care-givers of income they might have enjoyed in the absence of a minimum wage.

The proposed rule seeks to be a solution to a non-problem, interfere in the otherwise mutually beneficial exchange of employers and care-givers, and potentially reduce employment opportunities for care-givers while increasing costs for employers.

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