In a matter of first impression, the Northern District of Illinois determined that maids and house cleaners employed by third parties are protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”).  In reaching this decision, the court held such workers are not exempt from overtime by the “domestic service” exemption of the FLSA.  The case is entitled Arenas v. Truself Endeavor Corp. d/b/a Garret/Juarez Cleaning and is pending in the Northern District of Illinois.

The underlying action was brought by ten cleaning and janitorial workers who claim that they worked for Truself Endeavor Corp. (“Truself”), a company that provides cleaning services for private homes, and were not paid minimum wages and overtime.  Truself moved to dismiss the complaint based on several theories including an argument that the employees were exempt from overtime pursuant to the domestic services exemption.

The domestic services exemption excludes from overtime protection any worker “employed on a casual basis in domestic service employment to provide babysitting services or an employee employed in domestic service to provide companionship services.”  The district court rejected this argument and held that the domestic service exemption “applies by its terms only to babysitting and companionship.”

The Arenas case provides a strong indication that the courts are wary to broaden the scope of the domestic service exemption to include additional household functions.  Employers in the janitorial services industry should review their pay policies to ensure that they are compliance with federal and state law.