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Lawsuit Argues PCA Law is Discriminatory

November 17, 2011

Last September news broke that among the largely closed-door budget-cutting measures Minnesota legislators ratified last July, relatives who work as PCAs for family members were declared to be worth 20% less pay starting October 1 than their non-relative PCA counterparts.

The disability community was irate because families state-wide depend upon family members to help care for loved ones who qualify for in-home care services like nursing care and  personal care attendance. According to this article in the November 10, 2011 issue of Access Press, Minnesota’s Disability Community News Source,  about 6,950 PCAs were forced to declare “Relative” on a new form created by the State Department of Human Services.

Joy’s grandma (her longest-term and best PCA) was among them. A last-minute evaluation by our PCA hiring agency determined that as a “step-grandparent,” my dad’s wife was not technically embraced by the language of the law and therefore was exempt from the state-mandated pay cut.

I added my voice to the protest anyway in principle: on what grounds could the state legally discriminate? The answer seemed discouraging: the law targeted able-bodied people  like PCAs, not disabled people; and relatives have never been determined to be a “protected class.” Therefore where a protected class was not harmed, there could be no illegal discrimination.

It took lawyers and disability advocacy groups only a few weeks to formulate the legal grounds and bring a joint suit against the State of Minnesota, HealthStar Home Health, et. al vs. Dayton et. al. Assessing the pool of 6,900 plus relative/care givers subject to pay cuts, they determined that women and people of color (protected classes) were over-represented in the group. The lawyers also challenged the law as arbitrary–as unfairly singling out workers with a legal relationship to the person they care for, workers who must to pass identical state licensing requirments as non-relative employees.

The Chair of the State House Health and Human Services Committee commented on the State’s logic in the Access Press article, “many people care for their disabled children and don’t get paid anything…I talked to the Department about it and they though if we reduced the rate, that most people would still do it.”

On October 26, 2011, a Ramsey County judge imposed a temporary restraining order forbidding the state from implementing the relative pay-cut law while the courts consider the lawsuits disputing the new law.

The restraining order expires on November 25, 2011.

My thanks to Kari for sharing some of the material in this post.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. zeldissima permalink
    November 18, 2011 12:23 pm

    Woohoo!

  2. November 18, 2011 8:39 pm

    This is great news!
    -Rebecca

Trackbacks

  1. Ruling: Families Are Not A Protected Class « daysofwonderandgrace

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