Last week, an Ohio, a federal judge held that a home health aide failed to demonstrate that she performed general housework unrelated to the care of her patients, and therefore qualified as a provider of companionship services under the Fair Labor Standards Act’s previous formulation of the “companion” exemption. As such, the home health aide was not entitled to the minimum wage or overtime. Foster v. Americare Healthcare Servs., Inc., 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166550 (S.D. Ohio Dec. 11, 2015).
In Foster, the plaintiff agreed that home health aides who perform companionship services are exempt from the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime provisions. However, the plaintiff claimed that she qualified for one of the exceptions to the companionship exemption because she performed “general household” work unrelated to the care of the patient or client in excess of twenty percent of the total weekly hours she worked. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that when she performed services such as laundering clothes, preparing meals, or removing trash, such services also benefitted the client’s family members.
The district court granted summary judgment to the employer, finding that the plaintiff remained exempt despite the work performed. The court found that the type of work the plaintiff performed which included “meal preparation, bed making, washing of clothes, picking up medicine, and other similar services” was household work related to the care of the aged or infirm person. These services did not render her a “maid” or “housekeeper” to “the entire household.” As a result, the court found there was no evidence from which a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff’s work fit within the exception to the companionship services exemption. Of course, the companionship exemption as applied in Foster no longer applies to most agency-employed home health aides (though that change, while already effective, remains subject to an ongoing appeal).
FLSA overtime exemptions continue to be a source of wage-and-hour litigation, as does the Department’s new companionship rule. Employers should continue to be vigilant in reviewing their classifications of employees for FLSA purposes.