FLSA Exemption for Home-Healthcare Workers Redefined

The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has sent a clear message to the employers of home-healthcare workers and redefined exempt employees as only those who are directly hired by the person or the person’s family and not an outside agency.
This ruling updated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) definition that groups all companionship or domestic service workers together without differentiating between them. It means that even live-in caretakers will receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours per week. The outside agency must pay their employees at least minimum wage plus overtime.

The Court considered a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, that gave the Department of Labor the authority to interpret the companionship exemption when it implemented those standards. The DOL held that third-party workers were exempt, but Coke, a companionship worker, challenged that exemption and asked for minimum wage and overtime. Although the DOL upheld the exemption, the case set precedent in determining how the definition was applied. Thus, the Supreme Court agreed that the DOL had the authority to decide which workers were included and who was exempt in accordance with FLSA laws.

When the DOL reversed its decision, the Supreme Court followed suit and backed the new definition from the DOL for homecare worker exemptions. While the definition of residing in a home is fairly obvious, the employee is still not subject to minimum wage requirements. In addition, an employer might struggle to determine whether the caretaker actually offers companionship services pursuant to the definition, which further restricts general housework to a maximum of 20 percent of the employee’s work.

Are you confused about your rights in the workplace? Call Joseph & Kirschenbaum LLP right now at (212) 688-5640, or email the team at info@jhllp.com, to explore what you can do about an employer who has harassed you or violated other laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or New York Labor Laws (NYLL).