On April 16, 2007, the Court will hear oral arguments in Long Island Care at Home v. Evelyn Coke.

Congress in 1974 amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to guarantee “employees in domestic service” minimum wage and overtime protection but provided a specific exemption for workers who provided “companionship for the elderly and infirm.” Congress authorized the Department of Labor to create rules concurrent to the clause and the Department carried out these duties in 1975. The Department interpreted Congress’s instructions to deny protection to those who are directly employed by the person requesting services as those who are employed by third party companies that perform the same services but would otherwise be non-exempt.

Evelyn Coke brought suit against Long Island Care at Home for minimum wage protection. The district court upheld the Department of Labor’s interpretation of the Act citing the “strong deference” the Department was entitled to under Chevron, USA v. Natural Resource Defense Council. The Court held in Chevron that if the executive had legitimately interpreted Congress’s intent, the Courts cannot override with their own interpretations. An excerpt from Chevron:

“The power of an administrative agency to administer a congressionally created . . . program necessarily requires the formulation of policy and the making of rules to fill any gap left, implicitly or explicitly, by Congress.” Morton v. Ruiz, 415 U.S. 199, 231 (1974). If Congress has explicitly left a gap for the agency to fill, there is an express delegation [467 U.S. 837, 844] of authority to the agency to elucidate a specific provision of the statute by regulation. Such legislative regulations are given controlling weight unless they are arbitrary, capricious, or manifestly contrary to the statute. Sometimes the legislative delegation to an agency on a particular question is implicit rather than explicit. In such a case, a court may not substitute its own construction of a statutory provision for a reasonable interpretation made by the administrator of an agency.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the ruling on the grounds that the Act was of a remedial nature and thus is entitled to be only “narrowly constructed.” The Court rejected the Chevron test, “deeming it an interpretive rather than a legislative regulation.” (citing Petitioner’s brief) The circuit court also refused to grant deference under the Skidmore v. Swift & Co, noting that Congress could not have intended a liberal exemption of wage protection in a bill that was generally intended to expand protection.

The Supreme Court in 2005 remanded the case back to the circuit courts in light of a memorandum from the Department of Labor. The circuit court maintained its position on the same grounds as it had before.

The Petitioner argues that this case merits deference under the Chevron test.

The Respondent argues that there is no need to apply the Chevron test because “the agency is clearly wrong.” Respondent argues that the wording of the Amendment makes it explicitly clear that Congress authorized only those who are directly employed by the individual who requires services.

You can read the Petitioner’s brief here, the Respondents brief here, and the Petitioners reply here.

The next case to be argued: National Association of Homebuilders v. Defenders of Wildlife and EPA v. Defenders of Wildlife on April 17, 2007


1 Response to “Upcoming Arguments: Long Island Care at Home v. Coke”

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