Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that nursing companies must pay home health aides overtime | Markets | Market News | Canadian Business Online

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court said Wednesday a company must pay overtime to its home health care aides, saying an overtime exception only applies to people who pay for domestic services in their own homes.

The court unanimously upheld state Department of Labor and Industry regulations, ruling against Bayada Nurses Inc., which had asked the courts to settle the issue after the agency began looking into how it was paying the aides.

A state regulation that dates to 1977 provides an exception to overtime payments for domestic services in an employer's home. Bayada argued unsuccessfully that it should apply to its aides, who are largely supervised by the householder, and said the regulation would drive up the cost of services.

The company said its "householder clients" approve who will work in their homes, set their hours, control all aspects of services that will be provided and can terminate the relationship. In that respect, it said, the company and the clients jointly employ the aides.

Justice Debra McCloskey Todd wrote that the regulation was reasonable and consistent with the Legislature's intent in the Minimum Wage Act of 1968.

"Under the department's regulation, working for the householder employer permits an exemption from overtime requirements. Working for a third-party agency employer does not," Todd wrote.

Todd's opinion noted that unions and the AARP warned that failing to adequately pay home health care workers "will lead to an even greater shortage of these critical workers."

The court said Bayada was a Pennsylvania corporation headquartered in Moorestown, N.J., and that it had about 38 offices in Pennsylvania that employed more than 1,000 people. A 2008 Commonwealth Court ruling in the case, which the justices upheld, said the home health aides at issue in the litigation helped people with daily living and general companionship.

Labor and Industry spokesman Christopher Manlove said the department was pleased with the court ruling. A message seeking comment from Bayada was not immediately returned.

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