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Home Health Care Workers' Wage Rules Overturned by Federal Judge

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on January 16, 2015 11:53 AM

A federal judge has overturned the Labor Department's rules providing overtime and minimum-wage protection for home health care workers.

The rules were announced in 2011 by President Obama, reports The Associated Press. Federal employment regulations had previously exempted home health care workers from wage and overtime requirements for other types of employees. The new rules were due to take effect January 1, but had been delayed pending the judge's ruling.

What led to the judge's decision in this case?

Changes Require Congressional Action: Ruling

In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the Labor Department had exceeded its power in doing away with the exemption for direct care workers included in the Fair Labor Standards Act. These workers, also called "companionship workers," provide care in a patient's home.

The Labor Department's rules would have extended protections to direct care workers employed by third parties, such as home care agencies. But the judge ruled that the Labor Department did not have the authority needed to make such changes to the FLSA.

"Redefining a 40-year-old exemption out of existence may be satisfyingly efficient to the Department of Labor," Leon wrote, "but it strikes at the heart of the balance of power our Founding Fathers intended to rest in the hands of those who must face the electorate on a regular basis."

FLSA Exemptions

There are a number of different types of employees who may be exempt from FLSA wage and overtime rules, including airline employees and outside sales staff. Certain other types of employees may be exempt if they meet certain wage and job duty requirements. These exempt employees generally include salaried employees who make at least $23,600 a year and work in a professional, executive, or administrative capacity.

The Labor Department rules overturned Wednesday also sought to change the requirements for qualifying as an exempt companionship worker. Under the proposed rules, workers who perform medically related services for which training is typically a prerequisite would have been considered non-exempt.

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