In 1973, three resident-workers at various state hospitals for the mentally ill, the American Association on Mental Deficiency, and the National Association for Mental Health filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the United ...
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In 1973, three resident-workers at various state hospitals for the mentally ill, the American Association on Mental Deficiency, and the National Association for Mental Health filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The plaintiffs sued the Secretary of the United States Department of Labor under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 206-207 (“FLSA”). The plaintiffs, represented by the Mental Health Law Project, sought declaratory and injunctive relief; they asked for a determination that the minimum wage and overtime compensation provisions of the FLSA apply to patient-workers of non-Federal hospitals, homes, and institutions. They alleged that the Department of Labor (“DOL”) had declared an illegal policy of non-enforcement of the minimum wage and overtime provisions with regard to patient-workers. The plaintiffs, therefore, sought to compel the defendants to undertake the enforcement of said provisions.
The plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment, while the defendants filed both a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. On July 27, 1973 Judge Aubrey Eugene Robinson, Jr. denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. 1973 WL 1294 (D.D.C. 1973).
On December 7, 1973, Judge Robinson granted the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. The court held that the Secretary of Labor had a duty to implement reasonable enforcement efforts applying the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA to patient workers at non-Federal institutions for the residential care of the mentally ill. Judge Robinson ordered that within 120 days from the date of the order, the Secretary of Labor would have to notify each non-Federal facility for the residential care of the mentally ill that they had the same statutory responsibility to compensate patient-workers, that defendants intend to enforce the minimum wage and overtime compensation provisions in the FLSA on behalf of the workers and that they have an obligation to maintain records of hours worked and other conditions of employment and that indications that proper attention had been given informing the patient-workers of their rights in written and oral form as well as posting copies on every living unit of residential facilities. The court also provided criteria for reasonable enforcement of these orders and required that the Secretary keep written records of his enforcement activities. Finally, the court ordered that court costs be taxed to the defendants. 367 F.Supp. 808 (D.D.C. 1973). The case was then closed.
There are those
who argue that this case prompted substantial deinstitutionalization in the 1970s. Many states, citing budget constraints, eliminated patient labor altogether, even though the DOL returned to its original position of not enforcing the FLSA as concerned to patient-workers due to a 1976 Supreme Court decision, National League of Cities v. Usery, which held that extending minimum wage protections to employees of the State was unconstitutional. 426 U.S. 833 (1976). (Note that National League of Cities was overturned by Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit. 469 U.S. 528 (1985).) Matt Ramirez - 06/15/2016