United States District Court Partially Vacates U.S. DOL’s Rule on “Companionship” Exemption

In a December 22, 2014 decision, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia vacated a provision of the Department of Labor’s new regulations relating to overtime and minimum wage payments for domestic service workers who previously fell under the “companionship” exemption. The regulation, originally scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2015, would have barred third-party employers, such as home health care companies, from claiming an exemption previously allowed for workers performing “those services which provide fellowship, care, and protection for a person who, due to advanced age or physical or mental infirmity cannot care for his or her own needs.”
Following the court’s ruling, third-party employers will still be permitted to claim the exemption. Though challenged by the home health industry, the court declined to alter the U.S. DOL’s rule any further, including its decision to remove the word “care” from the definition. This removes the exemption from those workers who spend 20% or more of their working hours engaged in “care” activities related to either assisting with the “activities of daily living,” such as dressing, feeding, and bathing or with “instrumental activities of daily living,” namely those activities which allow a person to live at home, such as driving, meal preparation, and arranging medical care.