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Ruling: Families Are Not A Protected Class

March 30, 2012

On March 23, 2012 Judge Dale Lindman issued a final ruling in the suit brought by a consortium of Minnesota PCA providers: families are legally not a “protected class.” Therefore it is not discriminatory for the State of Minnesota to legislate, as it did in July of 2011, that relative care-givers will be paid $2 less per hour than non-relative caregivers.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported the same story here.

You’ll notice the ruling had nothing to say about whether the practice of paying one group of people less than another group for doing the same job is right or fair or just. You can bet that if the under-paid group was female, or an ethnic minority, the media would be all over the story and people would be protesting the injustice. But the group being penalized are (merely) family members. Therefore, there is no legally-defined discrimination going on.

So here’s how, as of March 23, 2012, the state’s MA system works for my family. We pay into the system every month an amount greater than our mortgage to receive MA benefits on Joy’s behalf. In our circumstances, the chief benefit is PCA services.

I’ve already written about the fact that the price of MA goods and services are so inflated, I’m uncertain that we are spending our pay-in money wisely. For example, under MA is appears we spend 1/3 more on diapers than I would pay for the same brand off-the-shelf from a store. While the state’s monthly and yearly financial statements show we spend more money than we contribute, I think I could get the same goods for less paying out of pocket.

So that means that State of Minnesota, then, is also being charged too much for those same products. But when faced with a budget deficit, did the state say, “Let’s use our whole state-sized buying power to pay a fair price for diapers, car seats and other medical goods” ?

“No,” the state said, “let’s help balance the budget by paying relative care givers less than non-relative care-givers,” rationalizing that people living with disabilities would not be hurt because relatives are partially motivated by love; therefore they don’t  require the same wage to be retained as an unrelated employee who approaches care-giving as a job.

Or as the Chair of the State House Health and Human Services Committee commented (here) on the State’s logic, “[M]any 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.”

So the state is now dictating to me that if I need to hire a new employee and I choose to hire a relative, too bad: the pay rate I can offer with the money we pay-in is only competitive for non-relatives. A relative needs to be willing to do the same job for less pay. If not, I have to hire a stranger.

Strange: the end of this post disappeared. Here’s how it ended:

What to do? Governor Mark Dayton does not support the relative pay-cut legislation and we can support him on that point. We can also let our legislators know how we feel about this and how it effects our family. One easy way to do both is to show up at the State Capitol for Disability Day on April 4, 2012 and put faces on the story for lawmakers.

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