U.S. Department of Labor rebukes Illinois, expresses “Significant Concern” over State’s controversial overtime policy

CHICAGO-The U.S. Department of Labor has severely rebuked Illinois’ attempt to reintroduce rules to limit overtime care for people with disabilities.

In a three-page letter submitted to the Department of Human Services on Friday, September 30 ( see link ), a top administrator from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) urged the Illinois Department of Human Services to overhaul its approach to the overtime caps, which have thrown the entire system of care in Illinois into disarray.

In the letter from the DOL, Wage and Hour DIvision Deputy Administrator Laura Fortman expressed various concerns about the “inflexible state caps” to hours worked. She stated, “As we have previously communicated...we are concerned that the overtime policy DHS announced in November 2015...may result in unintended consequences, such as violations of the [Fair Labor Standards Act] FLSA and inconsistencies with obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Olmstead v. L.C.”

Illinois initially implemented the hours cap in response to the original DOL Home Care Final Rule to enforce overtime pay for home healthcare workers. The Home Care Final Rule was established to protect the rights of domestic workers while at the same time protecting the people they serve. Instead of implementing the DOL rule as it was intended, or working with stakeholders to develop fair guidelines, Illinois implemented a policy in May (rescinded in August) that threatened over 2,000 workers with termination, caused workers to work without pay and disrupted care to thousands of people with disabilities.

On Monday, October 3, hearings began in Chicago on Illinois’ efforts to re-introduce the policy via the administrative process. Scores of workers and consumers directly contradicted the claim from the Illinois Department of Human Services that the overtime caps, enforced from May through July, had caused no harm.

The next hearing on the Rauner policy is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Thursday, October 6 at the Howlett Building in Springfield.

Amber Smock, Director of Advocacy for Access Living, said of Illinois’ misguided overtime restrictions: “The U.S. Department of Labor did the right thing by providing overtime pay for home care workers, also known as personal attendants. At the time, they said the rule was NOT intended to limit care or violate labor law. Illinois has taken a different approach, shutting out key stakeholders in the process. The results, as we have seen, have been devastating. Again, we call on Illinois to withdraw this policy and focus on the best outcomes for people with disabilities and for Individual Providers in the Home Services Program.”

For more information, contact Gary Arnold at 312-640-2199, garnold@accessliving.org; or Graeme Zielinski at Graeme.Zielinski@seiuhcil.org.

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