As we reported on Tuesday, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, has issued a much-anticipated ruling upholding the New York State Department of Labor’s (DOL) interpretation of how home care aides must be paid when on 24-hour assignments. While the Court’s decision averted a Medicaid funding crisis and industry-wide financial impact, the cases will likely continue on other grounds, providing the plaintiffs with an avenue of recourse and continued legal and financial exposure for the involved agencies, but not a direct impact on the State budget.
Ruling in a set of two similar cases, Andreyeva v. New York Health Care, Inc. and Moreno v. Future Care Health Services, Inc., the Court held that home care agencies are not required to pay aides assigned to 24-hour shifts for all those hours, provided certain conditions are met. Those conditions are that the agency must schedule the aide for three hours of meal time and eight hours of sleep (and the aide must actually receive five hours of uninterrupted sleep). When an aide is able to take the sleep and meal breaks, the agency may pay the aide for the remainder of the time when they are working — 13 hours. In accordance with the New York State Labor Law, the agency must also maintain records documenting work times.
In both cases, the plaintiffs alleged that they were not afforded the requisite amounts of sleep and meal times, and in some cases were never told they were entitled to such time. They also alleged that the agencies failed to maintain records in accordance with the law. For its part, DOL, while urging the Court to uphold its interpretation of the regulations, made clear that an agency’s failure to provide an aide with the minimum sleep and meal breaks would make the agency liable for every hour of the shift. The Court remitted the cases back to the lower courts to consider certifying them as class actions for the purpose of litigating whether the above conditions were met.
GNYHA participated in an amicus brief that sought to educate the Court on how a contrary decision would impact the Medicaid program and the hospital and home care industries. We are pleased that the Court chose not to strike down DOL’s longstanding interpretation of its own regulations, on which the industry has relied for decades. GNYHA also supports workers’ rights to be paid for their time in accordance with the law and will monitor the ongoing litigation for any potential impacts on our members.