Renewed Attempt To Destroy The FLSA's "Companionship" Exemption


Another effort is afoot to limit the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's Section 13(a)(15) "companionship" exemption to the point of non-existence in any practical sense. Last week, apparently-identical bills (S. 1273 and H.R. 2341 -- see currently available version below) were introduced in the Senate and the House which would have precisely this effect. Similar measures were proposed last year, but the newer ones would impose even-narrower restrictions.

The FLSA's minimum-wage and overtime requirements do not apply to "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 . . .." "Domestic service employment" refers to services of a household nature the worker performs in or about the private home of the person by whom he or she is employed. The term "companionship services" means providing care, fellowship, and protection to people who cannot care for themselves due either to advanced age or to physical or mental difficulties. Additional U.S. Labor Department regulations and interpretations explain how and to whom the exemption may be applied.

If the proposed amendment becomes law, only an employee employed "on a casual basis" to provide companionship services could be eligible for exemption under Section 13(a)(15). In turn, the phrase "on a casual basis" would be defined so as to make the exemption available only if:

? The companionship employment is irregular or intermittent;

? The work is not performed by someone whose vocation is to provide companionship services;

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