CNAs and other Home Health Care Aides Get a Break. DC Circuit Court Upholds the DOL’s Changes to the “Companionship Exemption” Under the FLSA

A while back I wrote about the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the “companionship exemption” under the Fair Labor Standards Act(“FLSA”). The FLSA contained an exemption to the rules regarding overtime pay for individuals who performed personal care services in their client’s private homes. This overtime exemption meant home health aides, CNAs, and other similar workers were not paid overtime if they worked outside of a facility like a nursing home. I was excited about the DOL’s proposed changes. The most important change was the exemption could no longer apply to workers hired by a third party like an agency. Home health care assistance is a huge and growing field serviced primarily by women with many of the workers being immigrants and people of color. The exemption meant these workers could work long, long weeks and get paid as little as a flat rate of $7.25 for all hours worked.

Unsurprisingly home health care agencies and lobbying groups quickly attacked the new rule and sued the DOL. I wrote about how the challengers were successful in having the DOLs new rule struck down by a federal district court judge.

Well I am very happy to announce the DOL appealed and the D.C. Circuit Court overturned the first judge’s decision. The Court’s August 21st decision upheld the DOL’s regulation. Specifically, the court held the Department has the authority to interpret the FLSA statute in regards to the companionship exemption. Therefore the Department is allowed to interpret the statute to mean home health care aides hired through a third party are no longer exempt from being paid overtime.

Of course, there could be an appeal to Supreme Court. Other than that it appears as if home health care aides employed through a third party will soon need to be paid overtime for all the hard work they do.


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