Is this really the best way to get a raise?

Share this article:
John O'Connor
John O'Connor

I can say with a straight face that I'm not a complete stranger to the battle over decent living wages.

My first job — washing dishes in a restaurant — actually paid below the minimum wage. The guy who was paying me such a paltry sum apparently had it worse; he was later forced to go out of business.

Conversely, I've also seen some of the autos, homes and lifestyles maintained by nursing home owners who insist they can't afford to pay the help a living wage, much less anything at all for overtime. Let's just say they prove beyond a doubt that irony is still with us.

But what's more the norm are the many businesses that are squeezing by, but would have no choice but to shut down or reduce staff if higher wage requirements were put in place. Unfortunately, that's exactly the scenario many may soon be looking at.

Last week, President Obama announced he will ask the Labor Department to issue enhanced overtime-pay protections for nursing home employees and others who currently are not paid for extra time they put in.

Under current rules, most hourly workers must be paid time-and-a-half if they work beyond 40 hours in a week. However, most salaried workers do not need to be paid overtime, unless they earn less than $455 a week. There are quite a few nursing home workers who fit into this second category.

At first glance, this would seem to be good news for salaried workers earning what amounts to $11.38 an hour. But a pay hike does little good if it arrives with a pink slip.

Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here. The reality is that many people in this sector are poorly paid because their employers are unable to offer more. Yes, there are some nursing home owners living like royalty. But so too are there many owners wondering how they are going to make the next payroll.

For all of its rewards, this can be a very tough business to be in. And well-intentioned but ill-conceived fixes (such as arbitrarily raising rates) tend to make it that much tougher. For everyone.

Share this article:

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


    More in Daily Editors' Notes

    Ebola shmebola! It's the real killers we should be worrying about

    Ebola shmebola! It's the real killers we should ...

    It's not hard to see why the Ebola outbreak has so many of us on edge. It's sort of like the proverbial monster under the bed. Except this time, the ...

    Four-year nursing degree still a great choice

    Four-year nursing degree still a great choice

    Good news for career nurses with bachelor's degrees: You're killing it compared to teachers, journalists and high school graduates.

    Shedding light on the impact of hospice care

    Shedding light on the impact of hospice care

    While there seems to be some disagreement over Malcolm Gladwell's posit that doing something for 10,000 hours will make you a master at it, the idea that practice leads at ...