“Thought for the Day” #755 – by Stephen R. Elville, J.D., LL.M.

July 6, 2016

The federal government recently extended minimum wage and overtime protections to most home health care workers.  If you are hiring a caregiver for yourself or an elderly loved one, you need to become familiar with the rules, even if the paid caregiver is a family member.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers who hire casual babysitters and domestic service workers to provide “companionship services” to elderly persons or persons with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities are not required to pay the minimum wage or provide overtime pay.  This means that if you directly hire a caregiver whose job it is to solely keep the elderly person company (for example, taking the client for walks, playing games with the client, reading, or accompanying the client on errands), then FLSA protections do not apply.  However, the companionship services exemption is not applicable when the caregiver spends more than twenty percent (20%) of his or her workweek performing “care services.”  Care services are defined as assisting the client with activities of daily living, including dressing, feeding, bathing, toileting, transportation, light housework, managing finances, taking medication, and arranging medical care.  Caregivers who perform tasks for the entire household and caregivers who perform medical services are also not covered under the companionship exemption.  In addition, if a home health care agency is the caregiver’s employer, the home health care agency cannot ever claim the companionship exemption.  In tomorrow’s blog, we will discuss the rules for live-in caregivers.