Private Agency Homecare Workers Win Workers’ Comp Clarification

In-home care is a dangerous profession for caregivers, requiring constant bending, twisting and lifting of consumers. NWJP has been partnering with SEIU 503 to reach private agency caregivers that are low-wage workers who are often isolated from other workers. There are more than 150 such agencies in Oregon, employing as many as 10,000 caregivers providing in-home support to seniors and people with disabilities to ensure they are able to live independently in their own homes. In an analysis of records provided by the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division, SEIU 503 found more than 600 workers’ compensation claims from in-home caregivers. However, additional research revealed that nearly a dozen private homecare agencies did not appear to carry the workers’ compensation insurance required by the State of Oregon.

In response to a meeting with representatives from NWJP and SEIU Local 503, the Workers’ Compensation Division (WCD) clarified that private agencies employing homecare workers are not exempt from carrying workers’ compensation insurance. WCD issued both an Industry Notice and a Worker Fact Sheet about private agency caregiver rights.

“This is an important step forward for a workforce that’s largely women and people of color, who due to a legacy of racism and sexism have been left behind by our labor laws,” said Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, Deputy Director of NWJP.

Previously the Ombudsman for Injured Workers told homecare workers they had to sue their employer in court if they wanted any remedies for a workplace injury. This resulted from an incorrect interpretation of a domestic worker exemption in the statutes and regulations governing workers comp. With the WCD clarification, private agency homecare workers who are injured on the job will be able to file a claim, the insurance company will pay their medical costs and they will receive compensation for time that they miss work because of the injury. They do not have to sue their employer in court.