Regulation Proposed to Limit FLSA's "Companionship" Exemption

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As we suspected, efforts to eviscerate the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's Section 13(a)(15) "companionship" exemption have now formally moved to the regulatory arena. The U.S. Labor Department has proposed a regulation that would limit the exemption to a far-narrower segment of those employees who work as in-home caregivers. This move no doubt reflects a political judgment that legislative measures to amend the FLSA itself (about which we wrote in June) would not emerge from Congress.

The Proposed Limitations Are Substantial

The exemption provides that the FLSA's minimum-wage and overtime requirements do not apply to employees "employed in domestic service employment to provide companionship services for individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves . . .." One of DOL's stated goals is to limit this exemption to companions employed only by the individual, family, or household using the worker's services. Under the proposal, third-party employers, such as those companies existing for the purpose of providing companionship services, apparently could not assert the exemption for their employees engaged in this work. This would be true even if the employee is jointly employed by both the third party and the individual/family/household.

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