The U.S. Department of Labor announced in December a proposed rule change that would extend minimum wage and overtime protections to cover elder care workers who currently fall under the companion exemption in the Fair Labor Standards Act. The DOL extended the comment period on its proposed rule to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to elder care workers to March 21. Originally the comment period was scheduled to close on Feb. 27. This is the second extension.
The FLSA's companionship exemption as defined in 1974 exempts in-home care givers who provide care and fellowship services to the elderly from both minimum wage and overtime rules. Currently, employers are not legally required under Federal law to pay home care workers either minimum wage or overtime. This is the case whether they are employed by a family directly, or employed by a third party home care staffing agency. The proposed rule would amend the companionship exemption in two substantial ways. First, the definition of the types of work that a companion may perform will be strictly limited to companionship, and a companion can do no incidental household work or light housekeeping. Secondly, the proposed regulations specifically limit the exemption to individuals employed directly by the individual or family. Home care workers employed by third parties would not qualify under the proposal for the companionship exemption.