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What Families Need to Know About the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
Feb. 24, 2014

If you employ a caregiver like a nanny, babysitter, senior care aide, etc., learn how changing employment laws may affect you.

Household help is a lifesaver for many families. Caregivers who look after young children, aging parents, pets or homes can reduce a lot of stress. But for all the relief they bring to you, you might be surprised to know that these household employees (or domestic workers) are among the most unprotected group of workers, with few federal protections for overtime, days off or vacation time.

But states are slowly adopting or at least debating a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights to change that.

“This work is real work and a formal relationship,” says Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), “and it should be treated as such.”

If you've heard about these changing laws on the news and are wondering how they affect you, here's advice to help.

If you're a caregiver, read this article on What Caregivers Need to Know About the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights.

If You Live in Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii or California
These four states have already passed their own versions of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and they pertain to most household employees in those states. The types of employees vary, but usually include nannies, babysitters, caregivers for seniors or those with disabilities and sometimes housekeepers who work in private homes.

In these four states, employers have additional obligations and employees have extra rights, says Lisa Weinberger, a lawyer and founder of Mom, Esq. So you need to stay informed.

New York and Massachusetts’ bills, which passed in 2010 and 2015 respectively, require a 24-hour rest period in each calendar week, so workers can take a day off. If employees choose to work that day, they get overtime pay for every hour they work.

California’s bill went into effect January 2014. Now, personal attendants in the Golden State get paid overtime for each hour worked over 9 in a day. (Personal attendants are household workers who spend 80 percent or more of their time caring for a child, senior or person with special needs.) Additionally, live-in personal attendants receive overtime for all hours over 45 in a week.

For more on the California bill, check out this article from Care.com HomePay.

If you live in one of these four states, you also have a bit more documentation to keep track of. Most employers must write a contract clearly stating wages, overtime and time-off policies. Check out our sample contract if you need help. If you live in Massachusetts, Hawaii or New York, it may be wise to add an acknowledgement stating you’re aware there are laws prohibiting workplace harassment and/or discrimination.

If You Live in Any Other State
As an employer, your responsibility is to stay current with the news that will mention any pending bills or updates, says Weinberger, or you could face a penalty (which varies by state). “Employers who choose not to comply are taking a risk,” she says. Check the requirements in your state to stay current as well.

Your caregiver takes care of your family -- you should take care of her in return. Even if Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights laws haven't reached your state yet, you should consider following adopting certain aspects of them. It will show your employee that you value her services and want to treat her like the professional she is.

If You Have Questions
If you have questions, you can call Hand in Hand: The Domestic Workers’ Employment Association at HIDDEN or an attorney who specializes in employment and labor practices.

“Lots of employers want to do the right thing,” says Poo. “They just need help.”

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.

Your Next Steps:

* 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.

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