Supreme Court declines to stay in-home workers regulations

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PErsonal Assistant holds assistive lift device as man transfers to a wheelchair

Appeal denied

Chief Justice John Roberts denied an emergency appeal October 6 to delay the Obama Administration’s new home care worker regulations, although industry groups are still planning to appeal them to the Supreme Court.

As a result, nearly two million in-home care workers, for the first time, will be covered by minimum wage and overtime laws starting October 13.

“We are pleased with today’s order. The final rule is not only legally sound; it was the right thing to do,” Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said in a news release. “It will ensure fair wages for the nearly two million home care workers who provide critical services, and it will help ensure a stable and professional workforce for people who need those services.

“The department has led an unprecedented implementation program to help employers prepare for compliance, including offering an extensive and individualized technical assistance program, providing a 15-month period before the effective date, and adopting a time-limited non-enforcement policy.”

The order comes two months after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the regulations, overturning a lower court decision finding that the new protections exceeded the Department of Labor’s statutory authority.

Until now, under the so-called “babysitter exemption,” the FLSA exempted in-home workers, referring to individuals employed for the purposes of assisting the elderly and people with disabilities with daily living activities.

The new DOL regulations distinguish between in-home care workers hired by the care recipients and their families, who would still be exempted, and workers hired by third-party employers.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia found that the DOL lacked the authority to make this distinction. Contrarily, the three-judge panel of the DC Circuit unanimously ruled that the DOL has the discretion to make this distinction because the FLSA’s text is ambiguous on the question, and the DOL’s interpretation of the text was a reasonable one.

According to Scotusblog, the industry group challenging the regulations still has time to appeal the D.C. Circuit’s decision, although the  decision to let the rules go into effect likely reduces the odds the Supreme Court will take up the case.