Will Supreme Court Accept Home Care Wage Case?

The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet indicated how it plans to deal with pending matters following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but whether the high court reviews a challenge to the Department of Labor’s wage and overtime rules for home care workers might depend more on an interpretation of a previous ruling.

In November, the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) and other industry associations filed a petition for review after the DOL rule officially went into effect, granting nearly 2 million home care workers minimum wage and overtime protections. In the petition, the groups argued that the ruling in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke (2007) didn’t authorize the DOL to extend such protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act to home care employees in 2013, Bloomberg BNA reported.

In the ruling, the Supreme Court upheld the DOL’s interpretation that home care workers employed by third parties fall under the FLSA’s companionship exemption. Third parties include home care agencies that employ caregivers and are separate from those who receive the direct care.

The justices found that Congress granted the DOL the authority to “work out the details” not blatantly addressed in the statute, including “the treatment of third-party employers under exemption.” As such, an opposition brief to the NAHC petition was filed in February on behalf of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division, stating that the Coke case already determined that the department can interpret the companionship exemption and third-party employment.

However, NAHC’s petition for review questions the intent of Coke; whether the rule unreasonably straps states with new, unaffordable costs; and whether the D.C. Circuit ruled in error when it decided that Congress meant to exclude home care workers from the exemptions, according to Bloomberg BNA.

Many parties don’t foresee the Supreme Court taking up the case, partially because it denied opponents’ request for a stay of an August decision upholding the DOL’s rule.

But in NAHC’s view, the fact that the Supreme Court considered Coke “does favor the court recognizing that this [topic] is of sufficient public import to consider it in this new stage,” William Dombi, vice president for law at NAHC, told Bloomberg BNA.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt