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PHI Remembers Evelyn Coke, Who Fought for Fair Pay

July 9, 2015

Six years ago today, Evelyn Coke, whose name is attached to a pivotal Supreme Court decision on wage protections for home care workers, died at the age of 74.

Today, home care workers are still waiting for the fair wages that Coke fought for when she challenged her employer for not paying time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours worked.

The court’s unanimous 2007 decision in the case Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke said that, by law, Coke’s employer was not compelled to pay overtime wages because of the so-called companionship exemption, a provision in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act which has been used for decades to exclude home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections.

But the court did maintain that the U.S. Department of Labor had the authority to revise the companionship exemption through its rulemaking authority.

The Obama administration has attempted to do just that, announcing a federal rule change in September 2013. But it has since been tied up in a federal appeals court in Washington D.C. due to challenges from the home care industry.

The legal struggle to win fair pay for home care workers continues. And today, PHI remembers Evelyn Coke, who made that struggle possible.

— by Matthew Ozga

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