In a unanimous decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that home healthcare workers are not entitled to overtime pay or even minimum wage under federal law. In Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke, the Court upheld a Department of Labor regulation [29 CFR 552.109(a)] that eliminated overtime for home health care workers providing "companionship services" employed by outside agencies and not directly by families. The case arose after Evelyn Coke sued her former employer for more than two decades of overtime claims. The District Court found the regulation enforceable, and a series of appeals followed, most recently leading to the Second Circuit invalidating the regulation in 2004 (9 WH Cases 2d. 1377 (2nd Cir. July 22, 2004)). The Supreme Court reversed, holding:
A provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act exempts from the statute’s minimum wage and maximum hours rules “any employee employed in domestic service employment to provide companionship services for individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves (as such terms are defined and delimited by regulations of the Secretary [of Labor]).” 29 U. S. C. § 213(a)(15). A Department of Labor regulation (labeled an “interpretation”) says that this statutory exemption includes those “companionship” workers who “are employed by an employer or agency other than the family or household using their services.” 29 CFR § 552.109(a) (2006). The question before us is whether, in light of the statute’s text and history, and a different (apparently conflicting) regulation, the Department’s regulation is valid and binding. See Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 843–844 (1984) . We conclude that it is.
Under California law, most such workers are covered by Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order 5 (Regulating wages, hours and working conditions in the Public Housekeeping Industry), or, more often, Wage Order 15 (Regulating wages, hours and working conditions for Household Occupations) which broadly exempts from overtime compensation (but not minimum wage) all personal attendants, "employed by a private householder or by any third party employer recognized in the health care industry to work in a private household, to supervise, feed, or dress a child or person who by reason of advanced age, physical disability, or mental deficiency needs supervision."