U.S. Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case, Meaning Home Health Workers Remain Entitled to Minimum Wage, Overtime Protections

A late June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court not to take a case pursued by several trade association groups means that a revised regulation expanding minimum wage and overtime protections to almost two million additional home care workers will stand. The high court’s refusal to hear the case leaves intact a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling from last year that determined that the U.S. Department of Labor validly exercised its authority to create wage-and-hour regulations when it decided to redefine who is, and who is not, an exempt “companion services” worker.

The case began after the Labor Department issued a rule in 2013 that extended the minimum wage and overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act to nearly two million workers not previously covered by the law. The 2013 rule, which became effective on January 1, 2015, changed the parameters of what constitutes companion services that are, by law, exempt from minimum wage and overtime rules. In the past, all home care workers were exempt from minimum wage and overtime laws. The revised rule stated that the exemption only applied to workers hired by the person receiving care or that person’s family, rather than to workers hired by a third-party company in the business of providing home care services to clients, since those workers were all people who engaged in home care as their profession.

Several home health care industry groups, including Home Care Association of America, challenged the department’s new rule in court. The trial court sided with the industry groups and struck down the rule revision. However, last August, the D.C. Circuit reversed the trial court and ruled in favor of the department, reviving the rule change. That court concluded that the rule change was a valid exercise of the Department of Labor’s broad authority to issue regulations that “‘work out’ the statutory ‘gaps'” in the law. The revised regulation was entirely consistent with the objectives of the FLSA and Congress’ intent to “include … all employees whose vocation is domestic service” under the coverage of the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime protections.

The associations appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the appeals court’s ruling ran directly opposite to the high court’s previous decision in a 2007 home care worker’s wage-and-hour case, Long Island Care at Home v. Coke. The U.S. Supreme Court decided on June 27 to refuse to hear the associations’ case, meaning that the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, and the Department of Labor’s rule expanding coverage, survive. According to the Department of Labor, the agency has undertaken an unprecedented effort to assist home care employers in coming into compliance with the new regulations.

Employers should already have begun taking steps to come into compliance with the minimum wage and overtime rules. There is still some uncertainty and dispute among the federal courts regarding whether employers are obliged to pay their workers according to minimum wage and overtime rules starting on Jan. 1, 2015 (the original effective date of the regulation) or Oct. 13, 2015 (the effective date of the D.C. Circuit’s ruling), but the federal government has stepped up its efforts regarding wage-and-hour violations, so ensuring compliance is highly important.

The laws and regulations affecting wage-and-hour laws are frequently changing. Whether you are a worker seeking to protect your rights or an employer desiring to ensure compliance, it is important to have knowledgeable counsel on your side. For reliable advice and representation, count on the experienced Georgia wage violation attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert. Our attorneys are here to help you in dealing with your minimum wage and overtime issues.

To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 404-873-8048.

More blog posts:

Georgia Supreme Court Says Home Care Workers Covered by State’s Minimum Wage Law, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Dec. 4, 2015

New Overtime Wage Requirements Could Grant Overtime Rights to Thousands of Georgia Workers, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Feb. 18, 2015

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