DOL to Delay Home Care Wage Rule Enforcement

A rule that makes nearly 2 million home care workers eligible for minimum wage and overtime protections won’t be enforced until 30 days after a federal appeals court mandates compliance, the U.S. Department of Labor announced Friday.

Although the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on Aug. 21 that the DOL has the authority to extend these wage and overtime protections to home care workers, overturning a district court order to vacate the regulations, the appellate court’s decision doesn’t take effect immediately, according to the DOL. In fact, the opinion only becomes effective 52 days after it was issued by default.

The announcement comes after the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and two other associations filed a motion for stay in an effort to stall the extension of wage and overtime protections to home care employees pending Supreme Court review. The Department of Justice simultaneously filed a motion for expedited issuance of the mandate on behalf of the DOL to hasten the installation of the regulations, which had been slated to take effect Jan. 1.

Whatever the court decides regarding these requests, the DOL said it won’t begin enforcement of its regulations until 30 days following the official effective date, whether that comes earlier than the default date, later if the stay is granted or right on the 52-day mark.

Despite the delay in implementation, the DOL has taken steps to help employers prepare for compliance, primarily in the form of an implementation program that entails extensive technical assistance, according to the agency.

“We have repeatedly encourages states and other employers to take the necessary steps toward implementation,” the DOL states. “We continue to stand ready to provide technical assistance to states and other entities as they implement the final rule.”

In 2013, the DOL opened Fair Labor Standards Act provisions to home care workers, making them eligible to receive minimum wage and overtime pay. Prior to that, home care agencies could claim their employees were exempt from the regulations.

NAHC and the Home Care Association of America then challenged the DOL, arguing that the new protections could actually harm workers if agencies reduce hours to avoid paying overtime. They also said access to care might be compromised if costs increase as a result of paying workers more.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt