By Bibeane Metsch-Garcia
June 24, 2015
Rebecca Eisenbrey, '15, was doing research for Professor Kate Andrias earlier this year when the National Employment Law Project (NELP) approached Andrias to help on an amicus brief. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia had struck down the U.S. Department of Labor's Home Care Rule, which extends minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers—a very low wage and growing sector of the workforce.
The rule, 29 C.F.R. § 552, was intended to end the labeling of home care workers as "companions," which exempted them from wage and hour protections. The Department of Labor has appealed the D.C. District Court's decision and, in their 3L year, Kate Aufses, '15, and Eisenbrey, worked with Andrias and NELP to draft a pro bono brief to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 27 other consumer, provider, and policy organizations as amici curiae in support of the Department of Labor.
Aufses and Eisenbrey marshaled evidence to include in the brief to show that the home care "industry has transformed, [as] have the duties and expectations of home care workers." They studied comments, reports, and other materials to make a compelling argument that "providing minimum wage and overtime protections to home care workers improves quality of services, and can be done without increasing costs to consumers or rendering home care businesses unprofitable."
"Working on the brief was a highlight of my 3L year," said Aufses. She described how helping Professor Andrias "gave Becca and me a real chance to dig into an issue that we both care deeply about and an opportunity to contribute to a case that could do a great deal to help many, many workers.”
"Collaborating with NELP was a pleasure; the lawyers there were so appreciative and supportive of our contribution, and it was a great experience to watch the organization's policy and advocacy work in action," she added. "I'm going into litigation, so I was very excited to flex my writing and advocacy muscles—especially on such a significant and timely topic."
Eisenbrey said she came to Michigan Law "to become an advocate for worker rights and employment justice. Working on the brief was a great glimpse into the world of policy advocacy: We read through scores of comments and reports submitted to the department during the rule-making process, coordinated with other stakeholders, and continuously traded drafts with NELP to make sure that our writing best represented the interests of both providers and consumers."
"It was a whirlwind—we did everything in about two weeks—but totally worth it, and working with Professor Andrias and Kate was a treat."
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