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Judge Takes Away Minimum Wage Protections From Home Care Workers

Front Line Troops: Sonia & Belen, just two of the army of homecare workers looking after dear old mom... (Photo by Andrew Currie)
Front Line Troops: Sonia & Belen, just two of the army of homecare workers looking
after dear old mom...  (Photo by Andrew Currie)
By Bryce Covert
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon struck down a rule change issued by the Department of Labor that would have extended minimum wage and overtime pay protections to home care workers come January.

In 1974, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) — the law requires American employers to pay their workers at least the minimum wage and extra pay for overtime hours — was expanded to cover domestic workers. Yet a carve-out was included for those who provide “care and fellowship” to the elderly and disabled in their homes. That exemption became so broadly interpreted as to deny basic labor rights from those who feed, clothe, and bathe clients, as well as give them medical care. In 2007, under that law, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman named Evelyn Coke’s employer, who had her work long hours giving care, did nothing illegal by failing to give her overtime pay.

Judge Leon’s decision said that the rule change issued last year conflicted with this 40-year exemption. He wrote that this loophole “is not an open question” that the Labor Department can “effectively rewrite…out of the law,” calling the change a “thinly-veiled effort to do through regulation what could not be done through legislation.”

Under his ruling, home care workers who are employed by agencies and other third-party employers can still be denied the minimum wage and overtime pay if they provide primarily “fellowship and protection” rather than more in-depth care. Workers who are employed by agencies and live in their clients’ homes can also be denied overtime.

The decision sides with Home Care Associates, the International Franchise Association, and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, which sued the Department of Labor, saying

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