Federal Judge Invalidates DOL's Revised Definition of Companionship Services
- January 23, 2015
In the January 2 edition, EmployNews reported that a federal district court in Washington vacated provisions of new Department of Labor regulations that would have excluded employees of companies providing elder care services from qualification for the statutory “companionship services” overtime exemption. At that time, the court had not issued any opinion with regard to a second critical portion of the DOL rules dealing with the definition of companionship services themselves.
According to the DOL regulations, companionship services would largely be limited to services involving fellowship and protection. Personal care services such as cleaning, cooking, or assistance with personal hygiene were limited to a maximum of 20% of the worker’s time. In other words, even if employees of companies providing home care services qualified for the exemption, the restrictive definition would have made the vast majority of current home care workers eligible for overtime, disrupting the industry’s financial model.
On January 14, the same federal district court judge issued a follow-up opinion also vacating the revised definition of companionship services. The judge concluded that the language contained in the FLSA’s companionship exemption specifically mentions care for elderly and disabled persons. Changing this definition to limit the exemption only to fellowship services requires Congress to amend the statute.
DOL has vowed to explore all options, including a probable appeal of the district court’s opinion to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. In the meantime, home care companies will not be subject to the DOL rules, originally scheduled to take effect January 1.