The United States Department of Labor says that “nearly all” of the almost 2 million direct care workers in the United States work for third-party home care agencies, rather than directly for the client who receives their care services. At present, as recently confirmed by the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts providers of “companion services” from the FLSA’s general minimum wage and overtime requirements.
The DOL’s “final rule“, which takes effect on January 1st of next year, clarifies and narrows the definition of “companionship services,” requires the recording of hours worked by this category of employees, and–most importantly–precludes third-party providers of home care from claiming the companionship services exemption at all. This means that starting next year the vast majority of home care workers will–at long last–be protected by the FLSA.
Twenty states have at least some state-level requirements regarding the payment of minimum wages or overtime to these workers. But the U.S. population as a whole has a set of extremely inconsistent and often very weak standards regulating the employment of home care workers, and most of those workers are left with few legal protections at all. The disempowerment and underpayment of this population of workers is made all the more worrisome when we consider that the large majority of them are also women and racial minorities.