The Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets federal minimum wages and maximum hours, exempts from its coverage live-in domestic service workers and domestic service workers who provide companionship services for the elderly, ill, or disabled, “as such terms are defined and delimited by regulations of the Secretary [of Labor].” In 2013, the Secretary issued regulations providing that domestic service workers employed by third-party agencies are not exempt; accordingly, most domestic service workers will for the first time be entitled to minimum wage. The new regulations were challenged as inconsistent with the statute; the district court agreed and struck them down.
The government appealed, and we joined with National ACLU in filing an amicus brief in the D.C. Circuit supporting the government. Our brief pointed out that domestic service workers are disproportionately women, immigrants, and people of color, and that the exclusion of these workers from minimum wage coverage is a legacy of New Deal-era compromises with congressional segregationists. This exclusion also reflected then-prevailing stereotypes about the minimal value of “women’s work.” We also argued that, rather than driving up the costs of care as opponents have predicted, better pay for domestic workers will improve the quality of care by professionalizing and stabilizing the workforce, which suffers from high turnover to the detriment of consumers. Many groups joined our brief, including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Council of La Raza, the National Employment Law Project, the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, and the National Women’s Law Center.
In August 2015 the court of appeals upheld the new regulations, finding that they were within the scope of the rulemaking authority delegated to the Secretary by Congress.
The Home Care Association sought Supreme Court review, which was denied in June 2016.