"Companionship" Exemption And The FLSA

Written exclusively for Chubbworks

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently determined that the "companionship" exemption to the overtime requirements contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) only applies if the worker lives with the employer full-time.

In Blanco v. Samuel, a nanny, who was one of several nannies caring for the employer's children, sued for unpaid overtime.

The plaintiff had her own apartment and left the employer's residence between shifts. However, she did sleep at the employer's home during an overnight shift and kept some of her personal belongings in the home.

The employer argued that she resided at their home and was exempt from overtime pay requirements. The district court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff's claim.

However, the plaintiff appealed, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the dismissal and remanded the claim, stating that "a plain language meaning of the residence requirement" under the FLSA would mean that the plaintiff did not reside at the employer's home, based on the fact that she did not spend her leisure time in the home and only slept there when she was working. As a result, the plaintiff did qualify for overtime pay.

Federal courts "narrowly interpret statutory exemptions" when considering FLSA overtime claims. The employer has the burden of proof to show that the worker "clearly meets each requirement of the statutory exception." Jonathan Crotty "Nanny Must Live in Client's Home to Qualify for Overtime Exemption" www.jdsupra.com (Feb. 02, 2024).


Commentary and Checklist


There are specific FLSA regulations regarding domestic service employees. They apply to "employees performing household services in a private home, including those domestic service workers employed directly by households or by companies too small to be covered as enterprises." These employees can be companions, babysitters, cooks, waiters, maids, housekeepers, nannies, nurses, janitors, caretakers, handymen, gardeners, home health aides, personal care aides, and family chauffeurs. For example, there are specific definitions and more than six factors for determining if a "private home" is the place of work.

Live-in domestic service workers have different definitions and regulations, including as to the calculation of hours worked.

The situation-specific rules, and duties tests can be complicated, so be sure to work with legal counsel. The DOL analyzes these types of requests for overtime exemptions on a case-by-case basis, and begins with the assumption that every employee is entitled to overtime, unless the employer meets its burden of showing an exemption fully applies.  

What should employers consider to help avoid overtime mistakes with domestic workers?

·  Work with legal counsel to draft a compensation agreement.

·  Refer to pay as hourly.

·  Reach an agreed hourly rate.

·  Include a weekly minimum.

·  Keep impeccable records of hours worked.

·  Specifically define hours excluded from work such as sleeping.

·  Define the job duties.

·  Have a written care plan and duties for the person receiving companionship or healthcare.





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