Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts denied a request from three industry groups seeking to delay a new rule which grants basic minimum wage and overtime pay protections to 2 million homecare workers.The industry groups argued that the new rule would devastate the homecare industry and cause millions of elderly and disabled Americans to lose their at-home care.
With his decision, the Chief Justice apparently acted alone and without much explanation. The result of his swift action is immediate implementation of the rule at the state level.
The workers receiving the new protections—home health aides that care for the elderly and disabled—were among the last domestic workers not to have basic labor protections in the U.S. Along with agricultural workers, domestic workers (those who worked in private homes) were excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
The new rule strikes down one of the last holdouts of those exclusions, the so-called “companionship” exemption. For many decades, employers of home health aides have claimed the exemption to avoid paying overtime and minimum wage.
More recently, large corporate employers have been profiting handsomely from the exemption, especially with the rise of for-profit homecare franchises.
John Roberts’ dismissal of the industry groups’ request for a delay doesn’t necessary mean the fight is over. To be sure, a lot is at stake for the homecare industry with this new rule. No one should expect them to go away quietly.
Indeed, industry groups have made clear they will be filing an appeal of the ruling, which could still make its way to the Supreme Court docket.
However, Roberts’ recent decision to dismiss their request for a delay may indicate the likelihood of the Court taking on the case at all.
This is good news for homecare workers, the elderly and disabled who need quality care, and everyone who cares about worker justice and fighting inequality.
The arc of the moral universe is long and bends towards justice…
And for homecare workers, it’s almost there.