What caregivers need to know about the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

March 2, 2020

If you take care of someone’s family, pets or home, you know how hard you work — caregiving is not an easy job. And the government is finally starting to take notice.

Household caregivers have long lacked the basic working rights that other employees enjoy. But that’s changing, as states are beginning to enact various Domestic Workers Bill of Rights laws.

“Because domestic workers work in private homes, we want to make sure they are protected,” says Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA). “It is recognizing that this work that goes into caring is real work and a real profession for millions of people out there. It should be protected as such.”

Each state’s bill varies, says Lisa Pierson Weinberger, an employment lawyer in Los Angeles. You need to be aware of what is happening in your state. Here is information to help.

For residents of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York or Oregon

If you live in one of these eight states, congratulations! Your state has a version of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on the books, which has expanded protections and benefits for you.

"While each state handled things a little differently, most put an emphasis on additional overtime, requiring paid time off, having a written contract in place and making sure caregivers were protected from workplace discrimination and harassment," says Tom Breedlove, Sr. Director of Care.com HomePay.

Hopefully your employer knows about these laws and has made adjustments if appropriate. If the law changed and you aren't being compensated properly, you're legally entitled to seek out your proper pay. Check with an attorney who specializes in labor or employment law.

You can also review the requirements in your state to see all the federal and state laws that apply to the work you do.

For residents of other states

As a professional, you should be aware of the trends in your industry — and that includes what benefits caregivers like you are receiving.

Domestic workers are covered under federal minimum wage laws, says Poo, but states are enacting bills to provide additional benefits most workers in the country already receive – such as paid vacation and sick time. If your state hasn’t passed a law, check the National Domestic Workers Alliance website for updates to find out what, if any, actions your state is planning. If a bill has been introduced, let your politicians know you support it.

In the meantime, talk with your employer to let them know the laws are changing around the country. You can bring information to them if they are not aware of the changes in overtime pay, minimum wage and time off provisions in your state. Tell your employer about these changes to your industry and what other families are providing caregivers.

Start by creating an employment contract (if you don't have one already) that spells out your benefits and by tracking your hours in a written log. If your employer says no to your request, ask if you can revisit the issue in a few months or think about applying to new jobs with better benefits.

Your next steps:

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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