California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Dept. of Labor To Delay Enforcement of Home Care Worker Pay Rule

The Department of Labor has said it will delay enforcement of a rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime pay protections to home care workers, Modern Healthcare reports.

The rule was scheduled to take effect on Oct. 13 (Schencker, Modern Healthcare, 9/11).

Background

In 2013, DOL issued a rule DOL aimed at changing the wage and overtime rules exemption for many home care workers. Under the rule, workers would be required to receive pay at least equal to the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 per hour, as well as overtime compensation (California Healthline, 1/6).

DOL had exempted home care workers employed by third-party staffing agencies from wage and overtime rules in 1975. In the 1970s, most patients received professional care in institutional settings or at-home care from people they hired themselves, often called "companions." The Obama administration has argued for a change in the rules, as professional at-home care has become more widespread and employees of staffing agencies often provide it (Scheiber, New York Times, 8/21).

In December 2014, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled against a separate part of the rule, which would have required companions employed by third-parties, including home care companies, to be extended minimum wage and overtime pay protections (California Healthline, 1/6).

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruled that home health workers were entitled to the right to receive overtime pay and minimum wage rates (California Healthline, 8/24).

Next Steps

According to Modern Healthcare, the rule cannot be implemented until at least 30 days after the appeals court issues a mandate that makes its opinion in the case effective. It is uncertain when such a mandate will be issued.

The industry groups that challenged the ruling -- including the Home Care Association of America, the International Franchise Association and the National Association for Home Care & Hospice -- have asked the appellate court to delay implementing its ruling so that they could appeal the case to the Supreme Court. In court documents, the groups noted that a Supreme Court decision could provide "certainty for the entire industry and the millions of elderly and disabled consumers who depend on its vital services."

However, DOL said the court should implement its ruling soon. DOL argued in court documents that the industry groups' "contention that the final rule will harm consumers and workers was rejected in rulemaking comments submitted by consumer advocates, labor representatives and industry experts."

Further, DOL previously had said it would "exercise discretion" in pursuing providers for noncompliance once the rule takes effect and the delay will not affect that (Modern Healthcare, 9/11).

This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.