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Statement Regarding the U.S. Supreme Court Decision to Decline to Hear Home Care Association of America v. Weil

June 27, 2016

Statement from PHI President Jodi M. Sturgeon

"Today, the U.S. Supreme Court, by refusing to take up the case Home Care Association of America v. Weil, reaffirmed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) final Home Care Rule extending federal labor protections to nearly 2 million home care workers. 

"PHI applauds the Court's decision, which finally puts to rest all challenges to the DOL's rule-making authority. The home care rule, which went into effect in October 2015, appropriately redefines the 'companionship' exemption to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The new definition responds to the tremendous growth of the home care industry since the law was amended over four decades ago.

"Despite the growth of the industry — now composed of nearly 100,000 businesses — the real wages of home care aides have remained flat, averaging just $10.11 per hour. Federal wage and hour protections provide a more solid wage floor upon which to improve the quality of jobs for home care aides and quality of care for older people and people living with disabilities.

"Finding skilled, committed workers for caregiving jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. The DOL home care rule is a first step toward addressing this labor shortage. Home care is difficult work, and has long been undervalued. As the number of people wanting long-term services and supports in their homes continues to climb, we need a multi-faceted national response to transforming long-term services and supports that acknowledges the crucial role of direct-care workers in creating a more equitable and reliable system of care.

"Following today's decision, we hope that state legislatures will move swiftly to ensure home care providers have the necessary funds to comply with the rule and avoid any disruption of services to consumers."

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Background

In Home Care Association of America v. Weil, several home care trade associations and the International Franchise Association challenged the authority of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to redefine the Fair Labor Standards Act companionship exemption. In late December 2014 and early January 2015, in two rulings, Federal District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in favor of the industry and vacated the DOL's final home care rule, which extended federal labor protections to the vast majority of home care workers.

In 1974, when FLSA was extended to most domestic workers, home care aides were excluded under the companionship exemption, which applied to both teenage babysitters and "companions to the elderly and infirm."

In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court in Long Island Care at Home v. Coke ruled that the exemption was legal, but that the DOL had the authority to redefine companionship services. The Obama administration committed to revising the exemption in 2011 and published the new rule on October 1, 2013. In an unprecedented step, the administration allowed for a 15-month grace period prior to implementation in order to give state Medicaid programs and employers time to assess their programs, make adjustments, and avoid disruption to services for elders and people living with disabilities. The rule went into effect in October 2015.

Home health aides and personal care aides — the two home care occupations tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — will create over one million new jobs over the decade 2012-2022, more than any other occupational grouping. By setting a wage floor and legitimizing the work of millions of women who provide home care services, the new DOL rule is a first step toward strengthening and stabilizing this crucial workforce.
PHI has extensive resources on the home care workforce:

    • For more information on the history of the companionship exemption, the U.S. DOL final home care rule, and Home Care Association of America v. Weil, visit www.phinational.org/fairpay.
    • National and state data on the growth of the home care workforce, wages and benefits, and training requirements can be found at the PHI State Data Center, www.phinational.org/statedata.
    • Paying the Price: How Poverty Wages Undermine Home Care in America, a PHI report on the quality of home care jobs and the impact of poor wages, is available at www.phinational.org/payingtheprice.

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PHI (Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute) works to transform eldercare and disability services. We foster dignity, respect, and independence — for all who receive care, and all who provide it. The nation's leading authority on the direct-care workforce, PHI promotes quality direct-care jobs as the foundation for quality care (www.PHInational.org).

Karen Kahn, Director of Communications, 978-740-9844

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