Judge strikes down wage rule for home health workers

Department of Labor regulations that would have extended federal overtime and minimum wage pay to home healthcare workers for the elderly and disabled employed by third-party businesses come January were thrown out by a federal district judge in D.C. on Monday. 

The decision sides with the Home Care Associates, the International Franchise Association (IFA) and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, which argues in its suit against the Department of Labor that the rule would have a “destabilizing impact” on the entire home care industry and adversely affect access to home care services for millions of elderly people. 

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For over 40 years, third-party business that offer home care services have been exempt from having to pay their employees minimum wage or overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In October 2013, however, the Labor Department issued a new rule that takes away these longstanding exemptions.  

In his opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon called the Labor Department’s rule change a “thinly-veiled effort to do through regulation what could not be done through legislation.” 

He cited six bills that were introduced in Congress — three in the House and three in the Senate — over the course of three congressional sessions that extended federal minimum wage and overtime pay to home healthcare workers but never garnered enough support to get to either floor for a vote. 

“Such conduct bespeaks an arrogance to not only disregard Congress’s intent, but seizes unprecedented authority to impose overtime and minimum wage obligations,” he stated in his opinion.