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Congress Members, State Attorneys General File Amicus Briefs Supporting DOL Home Care Rule

March 5, 2015

Members of Congress, state Attorneys General, and leading national organizations that advocate on behalf of elders, people with disabilities, and workers’, women’s, civil, and human rights filed amicus briefs at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on February 27 in support of the U.S. Department of Labor‘s (DOL) Final Home Care Rule.

The new DOL rule, which extends minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to 2 million home care workers, was to take effect on January 1, 2015. However, a U.S. district judge vacated the rule in a two-part process that concluded on January 14.

DOL requested and was granted an expedited appeal in Home Care Association of America, et al. v. David Weil et al., the case in which home care industry associations and the International Franchise Association challenge DOL’s authority to narrow the definition of companionship exemption and exclude third-party employers from claiming it.

Fifty members of Congress — 15 senators and 35 representatives, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, and Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott, (D-VA), ranking member on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce — filed an amicus brief (pdf) in support of DOL’s authority to revise the companionship exemption.

“Because of the exemption, home care workers have not been provided the protections and dignity that other workers receive, leaving them with median wages below the poverty line, dangerous working conditions, and extremely high turnover,” the brief states. 

“The Department of Labor has recognized the professionalization of the home care over the last 40 years,” it continues. “This recognition is precisely the expert agency assessment that Congress sought to depend on when implementing the FLSA, and is the reason Congress delegated to the DOL the authority to define and delimit the key terms in this provision.”

An amicus brief (pdf) filed by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for attorneys general in New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Mexico concurs, saying that “the DOL acted to cure an inequity that Congress did not intend. The Rule ensures that caregiving work that would be protected by the FLSA if preformed in a nursing home or other facility is similarly protected if performed in a client’s home.”

The National Employment Law Project also filed an amicus brief (pdf) in support of the DOL rule on behalf of multiple organizations, including PHI, Caring Across Generations, Cooperative Home Care Associates, Home Care Associates, American Geriatrics Society, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, Hand in Hand, and the Center for Medicare Advocacy.

Noting that the home care industry has “transformed” over the last 40 years, the brief argues that, “Once thought to involve mere fellowship, today, the job of the home care aide is widely recognized to be a vocation, requiring skill and training.” It goes on to say that DOL “appropriately responds to the fundamental changes that have occurred in the industry as well as to the persistent problems that plague it.”

All of the amicus briefs, which include briefs filed by AARP (pdf), the American Civil Liberties Union and other women’s rights, civil rights, and human rights organizations and scholars (pdf), and the AFL-CIO, SEIU, AFSCME, and the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance (pdf), are available on the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay website.

— by Deane Beebe

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