US District Court Vacates Most of Home Care Rule
Judge Leon of the US District Court for the District of Columbia has issued an order vacating the narrowed companionship definition in the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Home Care Rule. This, combined, with his previous order on the third party employer provision of the rule, means that almost the entire home care rule has now been vacated. It is believed that the record-keeping provisions of the rule are still in effect. The suit, Home Care Association of America v. Weil, No. 14-cv-967 (D.D.C. 2014), was filed in June of 2014.
In his opinion vacating the narrowed definition of companionship, Judge Leon rules that…. While acknowledging that there is “ambiguity in the meaning of the term ‘companionship services,’” and that “Congress has explicitly delegated authority to the Department [of Labor] to define the term,” he cautions that this “does not grant it a blank check to do so in a way that contradicts the [FLSA] itself.” Pointing out that the statutory language of the exemption makes clear that companionship services are services provided to elderly and disabled individuals ‘who are unable to care for themselves,’” Judge Leon suggests that “the Department is attempting to issue a regulation that would write out of the exemption the very ‘care’ the elderly and disabled need, unless it were drastically limited in quantity provided so as to be of little use.” The decision describes the precise issue of the companionship definition as being whether the definition must include care, and unequivocally answers “yes,” stating that “there are ambiguities in the statute, but this is not one of them.”
DOL has previously signaled that they intend to appeal any ruling against the regulation, and it is entirely possible that the Judge’s order will be overturned by a higher court. The DOL has 60 days to appeal, and an appeal could take 6 to 12 months.
FMI: To view the decision, go to http://www.nasddds.org/uploads/files/1_14_15_SJ_order.pdf.