2/27 Deadline For Employers To Comment On DOL Proposed Rule Changes Extending Minimum Wage & Overtime Rules To More Home Caregiver Workers


February  27, 2012 will be the deadline for interested employers to comment on changes that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) proposes to make to its rules on when its minimum wage and overtime protections apply to workers who provide in-home care services for the elderly and infirm. The proposal will revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act to more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion, and to limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services. In addition, the Department proposes that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

If adopted as proposed, the proposed rules will  significantly expand the number of home health care and other home care workers covered by minimum wage and overtime requirements.  As proposed, the proposed regulation will revise the companionship and live-in worker regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA):

  • To more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion;
  • To limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services; and
  • To provide that third party employers, such as in-home care staffing agencies, could not claim the companionship exemption or the overtime exemption for live-in domestic workers, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.

When Congress expanded protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, it exempted casual babysitters and companions for the aged and inform from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements of the FLSA and exempted live-in domestic workers from the overtime pay requirement only. While WHD has left regulations governing this exemption substantially unchanged since first issued in 1975, it now believes the in-home care service industry. workers employed by in-home care staffing agencies are not the workers that Congress envisioned in enacting the companionship exemption (i.e., neighbors performing elder sitting).

As a result of these determines, WHD is moving to modify its existing rules to broaden protections for professionally employed home care workers as well as outreaching to inform employers and workers about the requirements that it perceives employers of these workers must meet.  

The proposed tightening of regulations for home health workers follows a general toughening by WHD of its regulation and enforcement of wage and hour laws in the health care industry.  See, e.g. Home health care company in Dallas agrees to pay 80 nurses more than $92,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation; US Department of Labor secures nearly $62,000 in back overtime wages for 21 health care employees in Pine Bluff, Ark.; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward increasing FLSA compliance in New York’s health care industry; US Department of Labor initiative targeted toward residential health care industry in Connecticut and Rhode Island to increase FLSA compliance; Partners HealthCare Systems agrees to pay 700 employees more than $2.7 million in overtime back wages to resolve U.S. Labor Department lawsuit; US Labor Department sues Kentucky home health care provider to obtain more than $512,000 in back wages and damages for 22 employees; and Buffalo, Minn.-based home health care provider agrees to pay more than $150,000 in back wages following US Labor Department investigation.

Coupled with these and other enforcement efforts against health industry employers, WHD’s announcement of plans to tighten rules for home care givers.  In connection with its announcement of the planned regulatory changes, for instance, WHD highlighted the following guidance about the wage and hour rules that employers of home care workers can anticipate being required to meet when employing these workers:

Violation of wage and hour laws exposes an employer to significant back pay awards, substantial civil penalties and, if the violation is found to be willful, even potential criminal liability.  

In light of the proposed regulatory changes and demonstrated willingness of WHD and private plaintiffs to bring actions against employers violating these rules, health care and others employing home care workers should take well-documented steps to manage their risks.  These employers should both confirm the adequacy of their practices under existing rules, as well as evaluate and begin preparing to respond to the proposed modifications to these rules.  In both cases, employers of home care or other health care workers are encouraged to critically evaluate their classification or workers, both with respect to their status as employees versus contractor or leased employees, as well as their characterization as exempt versus non-exempt for wage and hour law purposes.  In addition, given the nature of the scheduled frequently worked by home care givers, their employers also generally should pay particular attention to the adequacy of practices for recordkeeping.

This notice of proposed rulemaking will be available for comment beginning December 27, 2011 at www.regulations.gov. The comment period will close on February 27, 2012.

For Help With Compliance & Risk Management and Defense

If you need help in auditing or assessing, updating or defending your organization’s compliance, risk manage or other  internal controls practices or actions under these or other laws, please contact the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer here or at (469)767-8872.

Board Certified in Labor & Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, management attorney and consultant Ms. Stamer is nationally and internationally recognized for more than 24 years of work helping private and governmental organizations and their management; employee benefit plans and their sponsors, administrators, fiduciaries; employee leasing, recruiting, staffing and other professional employment organizations; schools and other governmental agencies and others design, administer and defend innovative compliance, risk management, workforce, compensation, employee benefit, privacy, procurement and other management policies and practices. Her experience includes extensive work helping employers implement, audit, manage and defend union-management relations, wage and hour, discrimination and other labor and employment laws, procurement, conflict of interest, discrimination management, privacy and data security, internal investigation and discipline and other workforce and internal controls policies, procedures and actions.  The Chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) RPTE Employee Benefits & Other Compensation Committee, a Council Representative on the ABA Joint Committee on Employee Benefits, Government Affairs Committee Legislative Chair for the Dallas Human Resources Management Association, and past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Interest Group, Ms. Stamer works, publishes and speaks extensively on management, reengineering, investigations, human resources and workforce, employee benefits, compensation, internal controls and risk management, federal sentencing guideline and other enforcement resolution actions, and related matters.  She also is recognized for her publications, industry leadership, workshops and presentations on these and other human resources concerns and regularly speaks and conducts training on these matters. Her insights on these and other matters appear in the Bureau of National Affairs, Spencer Publications, the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Business Journal, the Houston Business Journal, and many other national and local publications. For additional information about Ms. Stamer and her experience or to access other publications by Ms. Stamer see here or contact Ms. Stamer directly.

Other Resources

If you found this update of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the other updates and publications authored by Ms. Stamer available including:

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources available at www.solutionslawpress.com

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press. All other rights reserved.


[1] WHD’s announcement of the planned rule notes that this draft shared December 15 remains subject to change before formally published in the Federal Register.

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