California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

SCOTUS Allows Home Care Pay Rule To Take Effect This Month

On Tuesday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts denied an emergency request to delay enforcement of a rule that would extend minimum wage and overtime pay protections to home care workers, AP/Sacramento Bee reports.

The rule is scheduled to take effect on Oct. 13 (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

Background

In 2013, the Department of Labor issued a rule 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.

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 (California Healthline, 10/7).

Three home care industry trade groups have challenged part of the rule and asked the court to delay the rule's implementation while the justices consider whether to review the groups' case (AP/Sacramento Bee, 10/6).

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2014 struck down one portion of the 2013 rule and then invalidated the remaining portion of the regulation in January, saying the DOL rule as written requires an act of Congress first.

In August, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the DOL rule, unanimously deciding that the rule is "grounded in a reasonable interpretation of the statute."

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 -- 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."

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 has said it would "exercise discretion" in pursuing providers for noncompliance once the rule takes effect (California Healthline, 10/7).

Details of Supreme Court Decision

Roberts' order offered no explanation of the denial. The denial does not reflect whether the court will decide to review the case if a full appeal is filed. However, one of the factors considered when deciding whether to grant emergency requests is whether the high court is likely to hear the case, according to "SCOTUSblog" (Denniston, "SCOTUSblog," 10/6).

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