Coke v. Long Island Care at Home

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The NYT has a decent story about this case that will soon be heard by the Supreme Court, in which Evelyn Coke is challenging provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act that exempt home health care aides from federal minimum wage and overtime regulations. The NYT story reports:

The Supreme Court agreed to hear her case after the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned Labor Department regulations that exempted home care aides from federal minimum-wage and overtime coverage, saying the exemption conflicted with Congress’s intent.

Before 1974, home care aides were generally covered by minimum-wage and overtime laws if they were employed by agencies. (Aides hired directly by families were not covered and will remain exempt from overtime regardless of the outcome of Ms. Coke’s case.)

In amending the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1974, Congress extended minimum-wage and overtime coverage to household workers like maids and cooks but said that baby sitters and”companions”for the elderly and infirm would be exempt.

When the Labor Department first proposed regulations to enforce the changes in the law, it said that home care workers employed by agencies should continue to get overtime. But the department reversed itself in 1975, saying Congress had not intended to allow those workers overtime when it created the exemptions the year before.

But the Court of Appeals, sitting in Manhattan, wrote,”It is implausible, to say the least, that Congress, in wishing to expand F.L.S.A. coverage, would have wanted the Department of Labor to eliminate coverage for employees of third-party employers who had previously been covered.”

The Bush Department of Labor opposes Coke, as evidenced by this amicus brief. No surprise there.

–Ann Bartow

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