Today a U.S. appeals court again took the Companionship Exemption out of the home health care employers' tool box. The Court upheld a Department of Labor (DOL) regulation limiting the home health care employer's ability to classify employees as exempt from minimum wage and overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If not appealed, the ruling will mean that home health care employment agencies and other third-party employers are required to pay the minimum wage and overtime to domestic workers providing in-home care for the elderly, sick or disabled.
In America v. Weil, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a challenge filed by the Home Care Association of America and two other trade associations that represent the home health care agencies. The decision overturns a lower court ruling that had invalidated the 2013 regulation. The DOL Regulations limiting use of the companionship exemption were effective January 15, 2015.
Home healthcare employers who had not planned for the regulatory change, or who had changed pay practice based on the lower court rulings in December, 2014 and January, 2015, should take steps to ensure immediate compliance. The DOL has posted resources to assist in compliance. It is recommended that third-party employers review their business models, employment policies, and scheduling practices to ensure that companion and live-in workers do not work more than 40 hours per work week. In the alternative, employers should review pay practice to ensure that companion and live-in workers are appropriately paid at least the federal minimum wage and overtime.