Judge Strikes Down Home Health Care Rule

 
2.23.15

In a controversial decision, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon struck down a rule by the Department of Labor that would have meant that home care workers, primarily supporting older adults, would be given at least minimum wage and overtime pay.

A loophole in the 1974 expansion of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), in which domestic workers were to be given the same minimum wage and overtime rights as other laborers, excluded people who provided support to the elderly (labeling them “caregivers”).

In a 2007 decision Long Island Home Care, Ltd. v. Evelyn Coke, the Supreme Court ruled that Long Island Home Care was within its rights to deny Ms. Coke overtime thanks to the exception in the FLSA. However, the Court left an opening, namely, that the Department of Labor (DOL) could change the exception to include home care workers.

The DOL attempted to do just that, however, Judge Leon ruled that the DOL does not have the authority to make such a change, only Congress.

The decision has led to condemnation from many fronts. The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, an advocacy organization for home health care workers, wrote on its website, “The $90 billion home care industry has seen its revenues double over the last decade. Yet home care workers — 90 percent of whom are women and a majority of whom are women of color — earn poverty wages, which, when adjusted for inflation, have fallen by 5 percent over the last decade. With a median wage of $9.61 an hour, more than half of home care aides must rely on public benefits to support their families.”

The New York Times editorial board also criticized the decision, writing, “In an even more indefensible part of his decision, Judge Leon agreed with the industry position that home care workers are akin to occasional babysitters, who are designated ‘companions’ (and rightly so) under the labor law.”

Other articles noted that while some states have modified their own laws to guarantee minimum wage and overtime for home care employees, this number is less than half—28 states have still done nothing to guarantee fair wages. In fact, according to the White House, 40% of these workers must rely on government assistance to make ends meet.

DirectCourse College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving offers convenient online training that is designed for home care workers who support people with physical disabilities and older adults. The curriculum helps empower home care workers, enabling them to seek better employment and helping to create a uniform career path nationwide.

We will continue to monitor the home care exemption and post regular updates as needed.

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