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Supreme Court hears arguments in care workers' overtime case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in Long Island Care At Home v. Coke [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-593 [docket], in which the Court considered whether a 1975 US Labor Department exemption rule that eliminates overtime for "companionship services" contravenes congressional intent to provide overtime in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) [PDF text]. Evelyn Coke, a retired home care worker, sued her former employer, Long Island Care At Home, for over 20 years of overtime, for which she says she was not paid or paid only minimum wage. The Labor Department rule in question overrides the FLSA requirement that overtime workers be paid "time and a half" compensation. A decision for Coke would result in countless lawsuits to recover back overtime and billions of dollars in expenses for the home care industry and the US government, which could in turn prohibitively raise prices for the care of retirees, a point raised by Associate Justice Stephen Breyer [OYEZ profile]. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit struck down the rule [opinion, PDF] in 2004, finding it violated congressional intent for the FLSA to provide overtime compensation to employees. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Powerex Corp. v. Reliant Energy Services [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-85 [docket], where the Court examined whether a corporation owned by a foreign state through another entity and used to fulfill that state's international treaty obligations can be denied status as an "organ of a foreign state" under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [text]. Powerex sought to remove the case to federal court, claiming it is an instrumentality of a foreign nation because it is a subsidiary of a crown corporation of the Canadian province of British Columbia. In 2004, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that Powerex was not an organ of a foreign state because it was not run by the government, did not receive government funding, and was not staffed with government employees.

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