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Home Care Aide Fights Injustice of Being Underpaid

Margaret Bobb knew she wasn’t paid fairly, so she turned to AARP Foundation for legal help.

“I took a big blow.” That’s how home care worker Margaret Bobb describes the moment when she found out that her pay had been cut from $25 to $17 an hour — without any notification at all.

But it was only the tip of the iceberg. The Maryland home care agency she works for wasn’t paying for either overtime or travel time, and that’s illegal, especially when your job involves long hours and having to travel to different clients’ homes, often many miles apart.

That’s why Ms. Bobb got in touch with a law firm and then with AARP Foundation Litigation, which has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Bobb and other home care aides. The suit alleges that the agency Fine Points is illegally underpaying its workers.

You could say that caring for older adults is very close to Margaret Bobb’s heart, and for good reason: It’s how she met her husband. She’s been a home care worker for more than 25 years, but even before that, she was helping a 98-year-old woman by taking her every Friday to the beauty parlor to get her hair and nails done. Then they’d go to a nearby restaurant for lunch, and every time they got there, the cook would rush to hold the door for them.

“She brought it to my attention that he wasn’t really holding the door for her: ‘He’s trying to get your attention, darling,’” she recalls with a laugh. “I didn't pay much mind to it but one day she slid my business card to him. He called, took me to a movie and dinner date and we've been together ever since.”

Now Ms. Bobb, who is 50, visits the homes of older people ranging in age from their 50s to over 100, taking care of their health needs, including personal hygiene and other forms of care. “It makes me feel good to take care of people who cannot take care of themselves,” she says. “Sometimes the connection you have with your clients is the only connection they have.” She often goes the extra mile, one time getting a birthday card and a small cake for a client who she knew didn’t have any family nearby.

The fact that she’s not getting paid fairly is more than an annoyance. “It affects everyone,” she notes. She has had to miss Christmas mornings with her son so she could care for clients – and wasn’t being compensated for the extra time. She also notes that underpaying home care workers can mean their clients may not get the full care they need.

AARP Foundation attorney Benjamin Davis, who is representing Ms. Bobb in the class-action suit, notes that “the law is crystal clear” that not paying home care workers for overtime and travel time is illegal, given the tasks they’re being asked to perform.

Ms. Bobb points out how important the issue is: “I hope that what I’m doing is going to open the eyes of a lot of agencies and a lot to people to help them see that these people are very important because without them, the whole [home health care] system couldn’t survive.”

In the end, for Ms. Bobb, it’s very simple: “Take care of us! We take care of your loved ones.”

Learn how AARP Foundation attorneys are fighting for the rights of older adults.

Read more stories about how our programs have helped people find hope, and about the volunteers who give so much of themselves to help others. 

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Fighting For You in the Courts

AARP Foundation Litigation ensures that older adults have a voice and proper representation in the legal system.