Home healthcare providers scored a victory in federal court Monday when a judge said the U.S. Department of Labor can't force them to pay minimum wage and overtime to some workers.
But that doesn't mean providers are necessarily off the hook. The judge didn't address another part of a rule issued this year by the U.S. Department of Labor that significantly narrows the definition of companionship services, which have long been exempt from wage and hour protections.
In his ruling Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon noted that congressional attempts to make similar changes have failed and the fact that the Department of Labor created a new rule to provide protections anyway “is nothing short of yet another thinly veiled effort to do through regulation what could not be done through legislation” and “bespeaks an arrogance to not only disregard Congress's intent, but seize unprecedented authority to impose overtime and minimum wage obligations in defiance of the plain language” of the law.
Home health providers said the decision will help them continue to provide affordable, quality care. The Home Care Association of America, the International Franchise Association and the National Association for Home Care and Hospice sued the government in June over the rule, saying it would “destabilize” the home care industry and rob seniors and the disabled of quality, affordable care.
Others, including the Obama administration, decried the ruling as unfair to workers.
The Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, an organization representing home health aides and other healthcare workers, noted that the industry has seen its revenue double in the past decade while many of its workers, a majority of whom are minority women, “earn poverty wages.” “As a nation, we cannot afford to consider these anything other than 'real' jobs, deserving of the same basic labor protections that are afforded nearly every other American worker,” the group said in a statement.
But the paraprofessional group also argued that exceptions to the pay protections, regardless of the court's decision, should be “rare” given the new definition of companionship.