On January 23, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an appeal in the case of Home Care Association of America v. Weil (U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Docket No. 15-5018). (The DOJ responds to and defends as appropriate litigation brought against a federal agency, in this case, the Department of Labor (DOL).) The appeal comes in the wake of a pair of rulings out of a federal district court, which vacated key provisions of the DOL final rule that significantly narrowed the use of the companionship exemption within the Fair Labor Standards Act. (For additional background and details on the ruling, see WICs article, "Federal Judge Guts DOL Home Care Rule," January 16, 2015.) The court ruled that the home care rule's prohibition of third-party employers availing themselves of the companionship exemption was in conflict with the intent of Congress in enacting the exemption. It further ruled that the revised definition of "care" under the companionship exemption was overly prescriptive and went beyond the authority delegated to the department by Congress.
The DOJ has asked the court to expedite the hearing of arguments in the case, proposing a schedule that would put arguments before the court in February, with answering and reply briefs due before mid-April. The expedited schedule was requested so that the court could hear arguments prior to its summer recess. If the request for expedition is denied, the court would not take up consideration of the case until the fall.
The Department of Labor issued a statement saying it disagrees with the district court's ruling and stands by its rule.
ANCOR and other organizations requested a delayed implementation of the rule, recognizing that states would have to address structural and funding issues, generally through the work of state legislative budget actions, in order to comply with the rule. The DOL stated in October that they would delay enforcement activities of the rule for up to one year after the rule's effective date of January 1, 2015, in order to permit states additional time to address system changes. (See WICs article, "DOL Delays Enforcement, But Not Implementation, of Home Care Rule," October 10, 2014.) The district court's ruling means that, for now, the third-party prohibition against taking the companionship exemption, as well as the revised definition of what activities are considered to be companionship in nature are not in effect.
ANCOR is currently developing an analysis of the ruling, which will include a summary of the provisions in the rule that do remain in effect, including the new requirements for record-keeping and timekeeping.