Overtime Lawsuit: Supreme Court Update
January 8, 2016 08:33 AM
Crucial support has emerged in the efforts to invalidate the new Department of Labor (DoL) rules that trigger overtime pay obligations for home care aide services. An “amicus curiae” brief has been filed by a collaborative of states along with a second brief submitted by two national disability rights organizations urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the lawsuit brought by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and other home care associations challenging the validity of the new DoL rules affecting the “companionship services” and “live-in domestic services” exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These supporting briefs are important in that the Supreme Court decides to hear cases on the basis of whether the issues presented have significant public importance.
The state brief explains that the new rules have great impact on the public health program, Medicaid, and the states that fund that program. The brief from the disability rights groups focuses on the negative impact on persons with disabilities caused by the rules that increase care costs, but do not require increased funding support.
The Attorney Generals from Kansas, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming joined together. Their brief argues that the new rules impose “a new and unforeseen unfunded liability on the States.” Further, the brief states that “the new rule both vastly expands the States’ financial liability for such programs and necessarily undermines their sovereignty without any statement—much less a ‘clear statement’—of congressional intent to impose such a result.”
These Attorneys General explain that,
The Department’s new position will in fact harm many of the very people Congress intended to assist—the aged and infirm who can remain in their homes with support services (rather than being institutionalized). In Kansas alone, almost 25,000 individuals rely upon a Medicaid-funded program to provide the care they need to live independently. The new rule, however, may result in vastly increased expenses for Kansas and other Amici States, expenses that likely can be covered only by reducing the number of people the programs serve.
The National Center for Independent Living (NCIL) and ADAPT forcefully express the views of the disability community in asking the Court to hear the appeal and invalidate the DoL rules. Their central concern lies with the expectation that caregiver work hours will be restricted to avoid overtime costs given that state Medicaid programs have not and will not increase payment rates to cover the added costs. Restricted working hours for individual caregivers means access to care barriers for persons with disabilities.
The NCIL and ADAPT brief states:
The Rule, therefore, requires disabled people to find additional attendants, while at the same time limiting the amount of work attendants can perform and driving attendants out of the market. Without additional attendants, many disabled people will be forced to receive services in institutional settings which they would not have otherwise chosen, in violation of their rights. The Rule will have the effect of making home and community based services, and with them, the rights of people with disabilities to live in freedom more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, and therefore, an option, not a right.
A review of the appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court is discretionary. The Court accepts few cases each year and does so only with cases that show great public importance or a conflict in rulings from federal Courts of Appeal. While NAHC and its co-plaintiffs have presented the importance of the case from the perspective of providers of home care, the “friend of the court” briefs add different perspectives—the consumers of care and the funding sources—to amplify the importance of the case.
NAHC is awaiting the reply brief that is expected from DoL. It is due on February 24, 2016. At that point, NAHC will have the opportunity to respond. Thereafter, the Court will decide if it is going to hear the case, a decision that is usually made within 60 days.