The home-care industry and the Obama administration will face off Thursday in a federal appeals court in Washington in a case with major financial implications for the industry and its low-wage workers.
The case centers on whether a U.S. Labor Department can require home-care providers to pay minimum wages and overtime to their workers. Before the rule, home-care workers offering “fellowship, care and protection” to the elderly and disabled had been legally exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay protections. The new rule narrowed the definition of so-called companionship services and barred third-party employers such as home-care companies from taking advantage of the wage exemptions.
The National Association for Home Care & Hospice and other industry groups sued in June to block the rule, arguing it would reduce access to quality, affordable care. But the Labor Department and the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a group representing home-care workers, said workers deserve higher wages and wage protections.
A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the government, saying Congress intended the wage exemptions to keep home care affordable and only Congress could change that. The government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The government argues the rule would lead to better-qualified home-care workers, less turnover and better care. Industry groups say it would lead to increased institutionalization of elderly and disabled people.