New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
Domestic workers include housekeepers and caregivers who work in the home. Domestic workers often work outside of typical employment situations, including working long hours and getting paid in cash. Workers are often female, uneducated, and undocumented. The type of work often leaves domestic workers vulnerable to abuse, mistreatment, and harassment.
Many cases of abuse among domestic workers go unreported. Workers may not know where to turn, have a lack of faith in the system, or fail to speak up out of fear of losing their jobs. A number of states, beginning with New York, have passed legislation to help protect domestic workers from employment violations and abuse.
What Is a Domestic Worker?
A domestic worker is someone who is employed in the domestic services field, typically a member of a household's paid staff. Domestic workers may include:
- Au pairs
- Elderly caretakers
Domestic workers do not typically include one-time service people, like roofing technicians or painters. Casual workers, including part-time babysitters, are generally not included in New York's Workers Bill of Rights laws.
New York's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
In 2010, New York passed the first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The bill was intended to help remedy employment violations for domestic workers. The new law provided comprehensive employment benefits to domestic workers, including overtime pay, paid vacation, sick time, and health insurance coverage. Historically, domestic workers only had limited enforcement of their employment rights.
New York's Workers Rights Law Updates
New York's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is the first of its kind and others have now passed similar employment laws protecting domestic workers. In 2021, New York put into place additional protections, to prohibit discrimination, loss of wages, wrongful termination, and provide reasonable accommodations for undocumented workers. Historically, undocumented workers have been targets of unfair labor practices, including wage theft.
Under New York's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, domestic workers are entitled to the following main provisions:
- Workers must be paid at least the minimum wage.
- Overtime pay at the rate of 1 ½ times the basic rate of pay after 40 hours in a calendar week.
- For domestic workers who live in the employer's home, overtime is paid after 44 hours of work in a week.
Day of Rest:
- One day or rest (24 hours) per week. If the worker agrees to work on their rest day, they must be paid overtime.
Paid Days Off:
- Three (3) paid days off after one year of employment, based on the regular pay rate.
Domestic workers who work at least 40 hours per week have additional workplace protections.
- Workers' Compensation Insurance for on-the-job injuries
- Disability Benefits Insurance if the worker is injured or falls ill and misses more than seven (7) days of work as a result
- If workers make a complaint of labor law violations to the Labor Department, the employer cannot retaliate against the worker.
- Protection against certain forms of sexual harassment by the employer, including unwelcome sexual advances or other verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature.
- Employers cannot harass domestic workers based on gender, race, religion, or national origin.
Information for NY Household Employers
New York employers of domestic workers should take the following steps to ensure they are compliant with the new Domestic Workers Bill of Rights law:
- Review your recordkeeping practices
- Be sure you have proper documentation for time tracking, calculation of gross and net wages, and records of payments made
- Payments should be made weekly
- Keep all documents for at least 6 years
- Contact the state's Insurance Fund to ensure you have disability coverage in place for your household worker
- Keep all tax records up to date (don't get caught with the "nanny tax" - which is what happens when your nanny files for unemployment benefits upon termination of the employment relationship)
- Provide workers' comp insurance coverage and disability benefit insurance
- Not retaliate against a worker for complaints to the labor department
- Provide written notice of work policies, including sick leave, vacation pay, holidays, and hours of work
Filing a Legal Claim as a Domestic Worker
If you or someone you know needs help understanding your domestic worker rights, you should speak with an employment lawyer in your area who handles issues affecting employees. You may be entitled to certain benefits and protections. Find a local New York employment law attorney today.
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