On Wednesday, a Judge has struck down the second part of a Department of Labor home care rule which was supposed to expand the minimum wage of healthcare employees providing services to elderly or disabled people unable to care for themselves. The rule also attempted to remove the exempt from employers of not having to pay overtime to healthcare employees working for more than 20% of the time providing these services.
Judge Richard Leon has decided to strike down the second part of the home care rule on Wednesday. His decision on the US District Court for the District of Columbia came just one day before the temporary stay of the rule was to expire. In addition to stopping the expanding of minimum wage and overtime pay, the decision against the rule also means that the effort of the Department of Labor to redefine companionship services did not materialize.
Judge Richard Leon has stated that the exemption set by the Congress 40 years ago is as clear now as it was then, and that even though the meaning of “companionship services” contains some ambiguity, the Department of Labor should not try to contradict the Fair Labor Standards Act itself.
National healthcare associations’ response
A number of healthcare national associations, including the Home Care Associates of America, National Association for Home Care and Hospice and the International Franchise Association sued the Department of Labor for trying to remove the 40 year old exempt of employers who do not have to pay overtime and also for trying to redefine healthcare or companionship services.
The Executive Vice President of the International Franchise Association Robert Cresanti welcomed the judge’s decision of striking down the rule and he stated that he appreciates the judge’s intent to stop executive overreach which could hurt business. He also appreciated the court’s ruling that holds the administration responsible for misdirected policies which come in contradiction with congressional intent and legislation.
What healthcare advocacy groups have to say?
While the national and international healthcare associations are happy about Judge Richard Leon’s decision, healthcare advocacy groups don’t share the same feelings. While the third party services and healthcare businesses only benefit from the striking down of the Department of Labor rule, the people who actually provide healthcare services are still lacking proper labor protection.
Caring Across Generations (CAG), an advocacy group with an activity spanning many years has stated that the ruling will have healthcare workers across the country waiting longer for basic labor protection which could have lifted them out of poverty. According to CAG’s co-director Sarita Gupta, the median hourly wage for a healthcare worker is of just $9.61 which makes it one of the lowest in the country. She also said that healthcare workers aren’t just the lowest paid, but they also lack basic protections that most Americans enjoy and take for granted.
It will take some time until people working long hours to support others will be provided with the basic labor protections which could lift them and their families out of poverty.