02.27.15

Sen. Murray, Rep. Scott, Democratic Lawmakers Defend Basic Protections for Home Care Workers

50 Members of Congress file amicus brief challenging District Court ruling to exempt home care workers from minimum wage and overtime protections

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) led a bicameral group of Democratic lawmakers in filing an amicus brief opposing the District Court ruling that would maintain the outdated exclusion of home care workers from basic worker protections like minimum wage and overtime.

“Home care workers, including tens of thousands in my home state of Washington, have demanding jobs that provide families in need with critical, deeply personal support,” said Senator Murray. “These professionals, ninety percent of whom are women, deserve to have the economic security that comes with a basic minimum wage and overtime protections. I’m proud to be joined by Democrats in both houses of Congress to challenge the court’s misguided decision.”

“For too long, home care workers have been denied bedrock minimum wage and overtime protections,” said Congressman Scott. “As this workforce grows, these workers deserve to be recognized as the professionals they are.  I hope that the D.C. circuit court will overturn this misguided decision and extend Fair Labor Standards Act protections to the nearly 2 million workers who would benefit from the Department of Labor’s rule.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) currently exempts workers providing “companionship services” from minimum wage and overtime protections.  The exemption, put in place in 1974, was originally intended to apply to elder sitting, similar to casual babysitting, and had been broadly interpreted to include home care workers. However, the role of home care workers has changed dramatically since this exemption was first enacted, and today, these workers provide critical professional services to millions of older Americans and individuals with disabilities. The home care workforce is projected to skyrocket over the next decade to nearly 3.2 million workers in 2020. The home care industry is booming, with over $90 billion in annual revenue and 30-40 percent gross margins.  But under current law, these professionals, the majority of whom are women, would not have the same basic worker protections afforded to most American workers. In 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) sought to correct this problem and issued a final rule to extend basic minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers. But in January, DOL’s final rule was overturned by the U.S. District Court in D.C. despite a unanimous Supreme Court decision in Long Island Care Services vs. Evelyn Coke in 2007, which affirmed DOL’s authority to issue regulations defining “companionship services.”

The amicus brief provides an authoritative account of legislative intent in the FLSA, which clearly allows DOL to determine rules and regulations that define the companionship services exemption.

In the Senate, 15 members have signed on to the amicus brief, including: Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), Senator Al Franken (D-MN), Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House of Representatives, 35 members have signed on the amicus brief, including: Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Rep. Keith Ellison  (D-MN), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL), Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D- IL), Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA), Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI),  Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA), Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL).

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