In 1975, Congress exempted home healthcare workers providing companionship services from the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act. What that meant was that home healthcare companies were only required to pay straight time for hours worked in excess of 40 during the week, not time and a half. Effective, January 1, 2015, though, the Department of Labor ended the long-standing overtime exemption due in large part to the dramatic shift in the provision of health care from institutions to in home services. Now, employers of direct care workers are not permitted to claim the exemption for companionship services and must pay time and half for hours worked in excess of 40 in a week to their employees.
The term “companionship services” means the provision of fellowship and protection for an elderly person or person with an illness, injury, or disability who requires assistance in caring for himself or herself. Protection means “being present with the person in their home” and being available to “monitor their safety and well-being.”
When the rule change was announced, many home healthcare companies challenged its application noting the significant financial hardship they would endure. In August of 2015, though, the U.S. Circuit Court of the District of Columbia concluded that the Secretary of Labor did in fact have the authority to make such a change and that the changes were a reasonable exercise of that authority. See Home Care Association of America, et al v. Weil, No. 15-5018 (D.C. Cir. August 21, 2015). In June of 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review that decision and the new rule took effect.
The attorneys at Rittgers Rittgers & Nakajima have significant experience helping employees understand the new law and how it applies to them. If you’ve been employed in the home healthcare industry since January of 2015, call Konrad Kircher or Ryan McGraw today to see if you are entitled to back wages.