|An enduring injustice was supposed to end on Jan. 1. That was the effective date for new rules by the Labor Department that would have required employers of home care aides for the elderly and disabled to pay at least the federal minimum wage and time and a half for overtime. Specifically, the new rules would have ended a federal regulation from 1974 that labeled home care aides “companions,” a designation that lets their employers — generally, for-profit agencies — ignore basic labor protections.|
Justice, however, has been delayed. The Jan. 1 effective date was postponed late last year when a federal judge, Richard Leon, said he first had to issue a decision on a challenge filed by the International Franchise Association and other home care employer groups. On Jan. 14, Judge Leon overturned the new rules, on the highly debatable ground that only Congress can remove the companionship label. The Labor Department has filed an appeal, but the issue won’t be resolved until June, at the earliest.
Judge Leon’s decision is at odds with a unanimous Supreme Court decision in 2007 that raised many questions about how to change the companionship designation and concluded that “Congress intended its broad grant of definitional authority” to the Labor Department “to include the authority to answer these kinds of questions.”
In an even more indefensible part of his decision, Judge Leon agreed with the industry position that home...