NAHC Brief Filed in Overtime Lawsuit at Court of Appeals
April 2, 2015 01:05 PM
The lawsuit challenging the validity of the US Department of Labor rules that would essentially eradicate the longstanding overtime exemptions for companionship services and live-in domestic services under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is moving closer to decision at the US Court of Appeals. On March 31, 2015, NAHC and its co-appellees filed their brief in response to the Department of Labor’s appeal of the decision of the U.S. District Court that vacated the Department’s planned rule changes. One more brief will be filed by the Department prior to the oral argument that is scheduled for May 7 in Washington, D.C. A decision is expected in late June or early July based on previous actions of the appellate court.
The NAHC brief argues that the District Court ruling properly vacated the regulations, finding them to be in violation of the plain language of the FLSA. Specifically, the brief argues that the FLSA language exemption “any employee” performing companionship services or live-in care does not permit the Department of Labor (DoL) to exclude employed by home care companies thereby limiting the exemptions to workers directly employed by the consumer. Further, NAHC argues that the change in definition of “companionship services” is also in conflict with the FLSA plain language. The challenged rule would limit the amount of personal care that could be provided to no more than 20% in combination with housekeeping services. However, as expressed in the brief, “care” is the only reference Congress used in 1974 when it created the exemption in the FLSA.
As an alternative argument, the brief explains that the rule changes are also “arbitrary and capricious interpretations of the exemptions. NAHC argues that it is irrational to claim that Congress gave the Department the authority to redefine the exemptions to the extent that 90% or more (DoL admits to 90-98%) of the employees currently subject to the exemption would no longer be exempt. In addition, NAHC argues that there have been no changes in the nature of the personal care work done for the elderly and infirm to justify the rule change. DoL argues that the change is valid because of the growth in the home care industry. NHC replies that the very purpose of the exemptions as established by Congress in 1974 was to make home care affordable as an alternative to institutional care. The growth of home care means that the exemptions are working.
It is expected that NAHC and its co-appellees will gain the support of several “friend of the court” briefs. The likely supporters include Members of Congress, several disability rights advocacy groups, and some state Medicaid programs.
For those interested in a copy of the brief, it is accessible here.