Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke

PETITIONER: Long Island Care at Home, Ltd., et al.
RESPONDENT: Evelyn Coke
LOCATION: United States District Court for the Central District of California

DOCKET NO.: 06-593
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2006-2009)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

CITATION: 551 US 158 (2007)
GRANTED: Jan 05, 2007
ARGUED: Apr 16, 2007
DECIDED: Jun 11, 2007

ADVOCATES:
David B. Salmons -
Harold C. Becker - on behalf of Respondent
H. Bartow Farr, III -

Facts of the case

Long Island Care at Home (Long Island) employed Evelyn Coke as a "home healthcare attendant" for the elderly. Coke sued her employer, claiming rights to overtime and minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The District Court ruled for Long Island, holding that Coke fell under the FLSA's exemption for employees engaged in "companionship services." The court gave deference to the Department of Labor's regulation 29 CFR Section 552.109(a), which applies the exemption to employees in "companionship services" who are "employed by an employer or agency other than the family or household using their services."

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. It ruled that the regulation was a misinterpretation of the statute, and was therefore unenforceable. The Second Circuit declined to give the Department's regulation any of the judicial deference normally due to administrative regulations. No Chevron deference ("strong deference") was due, because the regulation was under a section titled "Interpretations." Regulations that are interpretive rather than legislative are not entitled to Chevron deference. The Court of Appeals also ruled that the regulation was "unpersuasive in the context of the entire statutory and regulatory scheme," and thus not entitled to Skidmore deference ("weak deference") either.

Question

1) Is a regulation found under a subpart headed "Interpretations" still entitled to be given Chevron deference by the courts?

2) Did the Second Circuit err in holding a Department of Labor regulation unpersuasive and thus undeserving of Skidmore deference?

Media for Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 16, 2007 in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 11, 2007 in Long Island Care at Home, Ltd. v. Coke

Stephen G. Breyer:

Second case Long Island Care versus Coke that has to do with the Federal Labor Standards Act.

The Fair Labor Standards Act which has to do with maximum hours and minimum wages and in 1974 Congress amended the act so the domestic workers fell within the act.

But at that time, it made an exception for domestic sub-workers who provide companionship services for individuals who because of age or infirmity are unable to take care of themselves and then in the statute there is a parenthetical and it says, “as such terms are defined and delimited by secretary of labor.”

Now within a year I think in 1975, the secretary promulgated some regulations and they said among lots of other things that “these companionship workers who are looking after old people or sick people and who are not covered by the minimum wage laws is their exempt” they include not only those who are employed by the old sick person but also those who are employed by agencies or third parties that’s called the “Third Party Regulation” and more recently that regulation has turned out to be very controversial and the department from time to time has considered changing it or withdrawing it but it never has.

Now, in this case the domestic companionship worker who was paid by a third party, claims that the regulation which in fact exempts her from the Minimum Wage Law is unlawful.

Now she doesn’t have that easier job with her case because the statute says, that the “secretary of labor and delimit the terms of the exception.”

In other parts it gives the secretary lots of regulation righting authority.

But she makes them pretty good arguments, there are four basic arguments.

She says, “The regulation falls outside the scope of the acts delegation.”

She says, “It conflicts with a different regulation it can’t prompt at other regulation.”

She says, “This is listed in a section called interpretations so it must be an interpretive regulation which we shouldn’t pay that much attention to” and she says, “The department failed to follow proper procedures when it promulgated the regulation 30 years ago.”

Now the second circuit accepted some of these arguments but we, while we think they are good arguments they are not quite good enough and we find them not convincing, and we setout our reasons in our opinion.

Now since those reasons are quite technical in nature I shall spare you a recitation of them and I will leave those with a keen interest in administrative law and labor law to read the opinion.

So, we reverse the Second Circuit and the opinion is unanimous.