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NY Times Editorial Board Criticizes Judge’s Home Care Wage Decision

February 5, 2015

The New York Times editorial board published on January 31 a scathing criticism of a federal judge’s recent decision to vacate the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) rule change that would have extended basic wage protections to home care workers.

The judge’s January 14 decision is “indefensible,” perpetuating an “enduring injustice” to the home care workforce, the editorial says.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act‘s “companionship exemption,” home care workers are excluded from federal minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The rule change promulgated by DOL was supposed to change that. But on December 31 — the day before the rule change was to take effect — Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia issued a temporary stay on implementation. Then, on January 14, he vacated the rule altogether.

In his decision, Judge Leon wrote that only Congress had the authority to change the companionship exemption. The Times, citing a 2007 Supreme Court decision which gave the DOL exactly that authority, called his assertion “highly debatable.”

The editorial went onto criticize Judge Leon’s decision for comparing home care workers to babysitters, who are also not entitled to minimum wage and overtime protections. Providing services and supports “for an elderly adult or a disabled child is not the same as doing so for a healthy toddler,” the editorial says.

The editorial notes that the DOL has appealed Judge Leon’s decision, although the issue is unlikely to be resolved until “June, at the earliest.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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