The Evelyn Coke Decision, Six Years Later

June 6, 2013

June 11 marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Long Island Home Care v. Evelyn Coke case.

Evelyn Coke, a Long Island home care worker, sued her employer for back pay when she discovered that, though she often worked long hours in her clients' homes, she had never received overtime pay. 

Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled on June 11, 2007, that because of the exemption of "companions to the elderly" under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Coke's employer had done nothing illegal. 

However, the Court also ruled that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) could reinterpret the "companionship exemption" to expand wage and hour protections to home care aides.

Obama Promises to Revise the Companionship Exemption

On December 15, 2011, President Obama, with home care workers, providers, and consumers at his side, announced that DOL would finally guarantee minimum wage and overtime protections to the 2.5 million home care workers who provide services and supports to elders and individuals with disabilities to help them remain independent and part of their communities. 

As part of the regulatory process, the public had an opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations revising the companionship exemption; three-quarters of the comments were in favor of the new rules extending these federal wage protections to home care workers.

While DOL sent a draft final rule on the companionship exemption to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in mid-January of this year, the agency has yet to release the final rule.

The six-year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the Evelyn Coke case is fast approaching, yet home care workers are still waiting for a fair wage (pdf).

To tell tell the President that it is time to end the exclusion of home care workers from federal labor protections, sign this petition.

Visit the PHI Campaign for Fair Pay for more information on the companionship exemption.

-- by Deane Beebe