How To Know About Domestic Worker’s Rights

Do you employ domestic workers, such as a nannies, house cleaners, chefs, or elder caregivers? Then, it’s important that you understand your local requirements for employing them. Although most states have few guidelines on domestic workers’ rights, beyond those set forth by the Federal Government, you will note that other states have clear guidelines in place regarding wages, time off, and other aspects of employment. Start by looking at these trends to see how domestic workers’ rights vary from state to state.

Domestic Worker's Rights

Domestic Workers: The Same Rights as Other Employees?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was enacted to protect workers’ rights. Under this act, employees in the private sector as well as in Federal, State, and local government jobs are entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, and record keeping. It also protects children by prohibiting their employment in jobs that are detrimental to their health or well-being.

Though domestic workers have the same rights as other workers, the fact that many of them are paid illegally (under the table) has led to them being denied many rights that other employees are entitled to. That means that housecleaners, nannies, home care workers, and other domestic employees may receive lower than minimum wage payments and often don’t receive required overtime pay.

Because domestic workers are not protected when they are not paid legally, the average household worker in the United States makes less than $20,000 per year and is struggling to take care of their own families.

Several states have tried to address the treatment of domestic workers by enacting Bill of Rights laws protecting domestic workers. Currently, these states are as follows:

  • New York: New York’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed on July 1, 2010. It provided overtime pay at time and a half, weekly pay, a minimum of one day of rest per week and three paid days off after a year of employment, inclusion of part-time workers in disability laws, and protection from harassment and discrimination.
  • Hawaii: Since 2013, Hawaii’s laws state that domestic employees must receive at least minimum wage, must be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 per week, and reserve the right to be free of harm on the job and discrimination. Domestic workers must also be paid twice a month with a detailed pay statement. However, Hawaii’s laws don’t require vacation or sick leave, and there are no provisions for breaks required by law.
  • Oregon: Oregon Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights now includes domestic workers in the basic labor laws. This bill provides workplace protections for domestic workers, including allowing periods of rest, overtime pay, and paid personal time as well as protection against harassment. However, the bill leaves out home care workers who provide services to seniors and people with disabilities, parents or spouses of the employer, employer’s children who are under the age of 26 years old, casual babysitters, and independent contractors.
  • California: The California Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights went into effect on January 1, 2014. It provides overtime protection for personal attendants, which includes child care providers and caregivers. All domestic workers (except babysitters under 18 and parents, spouses, or children of the employer) are also entitled to state minimum wage, and regulations are in place for live-in and live-out domestic workers, including provisions for overtime as well as rest time. However, this bill is set to expire on January 1, 2017, at which time it will have to be renewed into law.
    • Massachusetts: Massachusetts’s Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights went into effect on April 1, 2015. It guaranteed basic work standards, including 24 hours off per 7-day calendar week, meal and rest breaks, protection from discrimination and sexual harassment, and notice of termination. It also outlined provisions for maternity leave as well as written contracts between employers and workers.
    • Connecticut: Connecticut’s Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights was signed in July, 2015. This bill helps provide protection from harassment and discrimination in companies that employ three or more domestic workers.
  • Illinois: Illinois is in the process of obtaining equal rights for domestic workers. If passed, this bill will provide housecleaners, nannies, cooks, home care workers, and other household employees basic employment protections such as minimum wage, freedom from sexual harassment, and the right to daily rest.

Preparing for Legislation Changes

Domestic workers are still fighting for their rights. Although it may take time before all household employees in the United States are payed legally and granted the same rights as other employees, it’s something that may realistically happen in the future.

Knowing this, it’s something you can start preparing for now. For one, it’s important to pay attention to news regarding domestic workers in your state. Should legislation change, you will be responsible for following the guidelines enacted. This can include pay requirements, requirements for breaks or vacation time, and even detailed record keeping.

Even if your state doesn’t currently have a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights law, you definitely want to pay your domestic workers legally, and you may want to consider the laws of other states. Though you do not have to, it’s a good idea to adopt these rights into your relationship and contract. It shows your employees that you value them as professionals, and it will also make transitioning easier should a Bill of Rights hit your state anytime soon.

Keep these state-by-state laws in mind if you have domestic employees or plan to hire workers in the future. Knowing these guidelines, it can help you avoid penalties in your state as well as build a positive working relationship with the domestic workers in your home.


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