On March 26, 2019, the New York Court of Appeals issued a highly favorable decision for the New York home care industry. The Court of Appeals reversed two Appellate Division decisions, Andryeyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc. and Moreno v. Future Care Health Services, Inc., and deferentially relied on the New York Department of Labor’s (NY DOL) interpretive guidance on the 13-hour rule for home health aides. The Court of Appeals stated the Appellate Division failed to afford the NY DOL sufficient deference and held that sleep-in home health aides are only entitled to 13 hours of wages for a 24-hour shift, provided that they receive 8 hours for sleep breaks (5 hours must be uninterrupted) and 3 hours for meal breaks.
Prior to this decision, the NY DOL had not issued a permanent regulation on the 13-hour rule. The NY DOL issued an emergency regulation in October 2017 which provided that sleep-in home health aides who work a 24 hour shift in accordance with federal Fair Labor Standards Act regulations are not required to be compensated for sleep times and meal periods. The emergency regulation was in effect for 90 days, and the emergency regulation was renewed three times. The NY DOL held a public hearing in July 2018 and accepted comments on the proposed regulation as part of the process to formally adopt the emergency regulation as a permanent regulation. However, on September 26, 2018, the emergency regulation was nullified by the New York Supreme Court in Matter of Chinese Staff and Workers Assn. v. Reardon because the NY DOL could not cite to an “emergency” to justify issuing the regulation. The NY DOL did not appeal this Supreme Court’s decision and has yet to issue a permanent 13-hour regulation.
The NY home care industry has anxiously awaited this Court of Appeals decision but can now expel a huge sigh of relief since the NY home care industry would likely crumble if the 13-hour rule was not upheld. The courts deciding the numerous class action lawsuits filed against home care companies will be guided by this Court of Appeals decision as controlling case precedent.
NY home care employers should note that the Court of Appeals remanded to the lower the courts the issue of class certification claims involving home health aides who did not receive the required minimum time for sleep and meal breaks in their 24-hour shifts. Hence, employers must ensure that they maintain accurate records of all meal and sleep periods for sleep-in home health aides. PMP will continue to monitor this case and will provide updates on any further developments.