What Caregivers Need to Know About the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights
Find out how recent changes to employment laws affect nannies, babysitters, senior care aides, housekeepers, etc.
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.
“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 Weinberger, a lawyer and founder of Mom, Esq. You need to be aware of what is happening in your state. Here is information to help.
If you're a family, read this article on What Families Need to Know About the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.
If You Live In New York, Massachusetts Hawaii or California
If you live in one of these four states, congratulations! Your state has passed a version of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and you're entitled to new protections.
The New York and Massachusetts bills have been around since 2010 and 2015 respectively. These laws gave household employees additional overtime protections beyond what federal labor law mandates. For example, if you work as a live-out nanny, you are required to have 24 consecutive hours of rest each week. If you must work on your day off, you have to be paid overtime for every hour you work.
The California bill went into effect January 2014. It gives personal attendants legal rights to benefits, including daily overtime pay. (You're a personal attendant if you spend 80 percent or more of your working hours caring for a child, senior or person with special needs.)
Federal law says that people who work more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay (at time and a half), with no concern about working a certain number of hours per day. California used to only grant daily overtime if you worked more than 8 hours in a day to non-personal attendants (household employees like housekeepers who don't care for a person). It didn't matter if a nanny worked 16 hours in one day -- she didn't have to be paid overtime unless she went over the 40 hour per week total. With the new bill, personal attendants now get overtime if they work more than 9 hours in one day.
For more details on the California bill, read this article from Care.com HomePay.
Hopefully your employer knows about any new laws and will pay you appropriately. “You can let your employer know you are entitled to overtime pay,” Weinberger says. “Have a conversation and see if the employer will compensate you.” (If they won’t, you're legally entitled to seek out your proper pay. Check with an attorney who specializes in labor or employment law.)
Most employers are also required to create a contract for you that spells out your wages, overtime and time off policies. If they need help making one, check out this sample contract and have them review all the requirements in their state to make sure the contract adheres to all state laws.
Finally, there are assurances that you’ll be treated with respect on the job. New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts have provisions in their Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights that provide forms of protection against workplace harassment and/or discrimination.
If You Live in Any Other State
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.
If You Have Questions
The National Domestic Workers Alliance can answer questions confidentially. If you're uncomfortable
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is an award-winning freelance writer and a mom to two girls. She lives in Massachusetts and has written for local and national publications.
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* The information contained in this article should not be used for any actual caregiver relationship without the advice and guidance of a professional advisor who is familiar with all the relevant facts. The information contained herein is general in nature and is not intended as legal, tax or investment advice. Furthermore, the information contained herein may not be applicable to or suitable for your specific circumstances and may require consideration of other matters.