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DOL to Issue Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to Amend the Companionship and Live-In Worker Regulations

The DOL announced yesterday that it would be issuing proposed amended rules regarding companionship and live-in workers’ eligibility for overtime under the FLSA.  A preview of the announcement from the DOL’s website explains:

“While Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, these Amendments also created a limited exemption from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the Act for casual babysitters and companions for the aged and infirm, and created an exemption from the overtime pay requirement only for live-in domestic workers.

Although the regulations governing exemptions have been substantially unchanged since they were promulgated in 1975, the in-home care industry has undergone a dramatic transformation. There has been a growing demand for long-term in-home care, and as a result the in-home care services industry has grown substantially. However, the earnings of in-home care employees remain among the lowest in the service industry, impeding efforts to improve both jobs and care. Moreover, the workers that are employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned when it enacted the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting), but instead are professional caregivers entitled to FLSA protections. In view of these changes, the Department believes it is appropriate to reconsider whether the scope of the regulations are now too broad and not in harmony with Congressional intent.

Proposed Changes to the Companionship and Live-In Worker Regulations

On December 15, 2011 the Department announced that it will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations for two important purposes:

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services. Third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the exemption, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

Although the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reviewed and approved the attached Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), the document has not yet been published in the Federal Register. The NPRM that appears in the Federal Register will specify the dates of the public comment period and may contain minor formatting differences in accordance with Office of the Federal Register publication requirements. The OMB-approved version is being provided as a convenience to the public and this website will be updated with the Federal Register’s published version when it becomes available.”

Among other things, the proposed rule would overrule the 2007 holding of the Supreme Court in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, and require 3rd party employers such as staffing agencies to pay companions and home health workers overtime under the FLSA when they work in excess of 40 hours per week.

Click Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to read more.

 

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Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act Would Amend the FLSA to Include Basic Labor Protections for Home Care Workers

The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act [S. 1273/H.R. 2341] – a bill that would help create a more stable, valued direct care workforce was introduced on 6/23/2011, by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) and Sen. Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA). Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were also original co-sponsors of the Senate bill. The House bill had twenty-one original co-sponsors. This legislation takes major steps towards ensuring the health, autonomy and well-being of more than 13 million Americans with long-term care needs today and an estimated 27 million by 2050.

The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to include basic labor protections for home care workers. Currently, FLSA covers domestic service workers and most direct care workers in institutional settings such as nursing homes; however, the law continues to exclude home care workers from basic minimum wage and overtime protections.

In addition to extending wage and overtime protections for home care workers, The Direct Care Job Quality Improvement Act would:

  • Establish data collection and reporting requirements to monitor important workforce indicators such as size, compensation levels, turnover rates and vacancies.
  • Improve the recruitment and retention of direct care workers by providing grants to states to expand and support efforts aimed at recruiting, training and retaining an adequate supply of direct care workers.
Under current regulations, most home health care workers who perform companionship services in or about the private home of the person by whom he/she is employed are exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements.  The current regulation has previously been upheld by the United States Supreme Court in the case of Long Island Care at Home, LTD. v. Coke.

To read more about the proposed legislation click here.

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Filed under Exemptions, Wage and Hour News

NY Times: A Call To Change The Unfair Wage Laws Applicable To Home Health Employees

“Change is too slow coming for the nation’s one million home care aides. In 2007, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld a 1975 federal labor regulation that defines home care aides as ‘companions.’ That definition exempts home care employers — often for-profit agencies — from having to pay the federal minimum wage or time and a half for overtime.

In explaining their decision, the justices pointed out that the law gives the Labor Department, not the court, the power to change the regulation. Yet, more than two years later, the regulation still stands.

Last month, 15 senators sent a letter to Hilda Solis, President Obama’s labor secretary, urging her to eliminate the “companion” exemption. A month earlier, 37 House members sent a similar letter. But beyond a statement from Ms. Solis expressing concern and pledging to look into the matter, there has been no progress.”

Go here, to read the entire editorial piece appearing in the July 9, 2009, New York Times.

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