Court Upholds Minimum Wage and Overtime for Class of Home Care Workers

Last week, the federal Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule that requires minimum wage and overtime coverage for some two million home health care workers employed by a home health care agency who live with the person receiving care. Home Care Association of America v. Weil (D.C. Ct. App. 2015). The decision overturned a lower ruling that had declared the regulation invalid before it could take effect.

Home health care workers had been exempt from minimum wage and overtime for decades under the Fair Labor Standards Act as “domestic service” workers. In 1975, the DOL implemented regulations that explicitly included employees of a third-party employer within the minimum wage and overtime exemptions.

Citing dramatic changes in the provision of home health services, the DOL proposed amendments in 1993, 1995, and 2001 to exclude employees of third parties from the exemption. In 2013, the DOL adopted a final regulation to remove the exemption. However, the regulation was ruled invalid by the federal District Court for the D.C. Circuit before it could take effect.

In overturning that decision, the court agreed with the DOL that the changing nature of home health care justified the change: “Today, few direct care workers are the ‘elder sitters’ envisioned by Congress,” the agency argued. “Instead, home care workers employed by third parties are professional caregivers, often with training or certification, who work for agencies that profit from the employees’ service.”

The rule was originally set to take effect on January 1, 2015, with the DOL saying it would allow companies a year to fully comply. At this time, it is unclear when the revived rule will be fully enforced. Members who employ home health care workers are encouraged to contact an MSEC attorney with questions.