On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the U.S. Department of Labor's new rule that purported to narrow the definition of "companionship services" exempt from overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Rejecting the DOL's arguments in support of the new rule, the court found that the statutory exemption of home care companions "clearly targets workers who provide services to those who need care. . . . Limiting that care to only 20 percent of a worker's total hours defies logic, and Congressional intent." The court concluded, "Here, yet again, the [DOL] is trying to do through regulation what must be done through legislation. And, therefore, it too must be vacated."
Today's decision was the culmination of a litigation challenge filed on June 6, 2014, on behalf of a coalition of associations representing home care providers across the country.* On December 22, 2014, the court vacated a major part of the new rule that had attempted to exclude third-party employers from availing themselves of the companionship and live-in exemptions under the Act. The court found that the DOL's revised regulation as applied to third-party employers, "not only disregard[ed] Congress's intent, but seize[d] unprecedented authority to impose overtime and minimum wage obligations in defiance of the plain language" of the FLSA.
Because the December 22 ruling did not address Section 552.6, which radically narrowed the definition of what services come under the exemption (the so-called 20% rule), the coalition of associations asked the court to vacate that portion of the new rule also, which the court did today. As a result, the vacated provisions of the new rule will not go into effect unless the district judge is reversed on appeal.