The Fair Labor Standards Act exempts from the statute's minimum wage and maximum hours rules any employee employed in domestic service employment to provide companionship services for individuals who (because of age or infirmity) are unable to care for themselves. This includes those "companionship" workers who are employed by an employer or agency other than the family or household using their services.
Coke was a domestic worker who provided "companionship services" to elderly and infirm men and women. Coke was paid by the employer, a third-party agency. Coke filed suit against her employer and its owner, alleging that they failed to pay her the minimum wages and overtime wages to which she was entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Coke argued that the statutory exemption for "companionship services" did not apply to companionship workers paid by third-party agencies such as the employer. A Department of Labor regulation stated that the statutory exemption included all third-party-employed companionship workers. The district court found that the Department’s regulation regarding third-party employers was binding and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. The defendants appealed.
Was the department’s regulation valid and binding?
The Court determined that the Department's regulation was valid and binding because: (1) the regulation concerned details Congress entrusted the Department to work out, (2) although 29 C.F.R. §§ 552.3 and 552.109(a) were inconsistent; § 552.109(a) governed since, inter alia, it was the more specific regulation with respect to the third-party-employment question; (3) the Department intended the regulation as a binding application of its rulemaking authority; and (4) the Department satisfied the notice requirements of 5 U.S.C.S. § 553(b)(3).