New York’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

new york's domestic workers' bill of rightsOver the past six years, we have seen states and cities enacting labor laws to protect domestic workers’ rights. These workers include nannies, housekeepers, drivers, personal assistants, and more.

On Nov. 29, 2010, New York State became the first state in the nation to extend workers’ rights and protections to people working in the household help industry, mandating that domestic workers be:

  • paid time and a half over their basic hourly rate when they work more than 40 hours per week. (Live-in household help working more than 44 hours per week are entitled to overtime.);
  • provided one day off for every seven days worked, or overtime pay if the workers agree to work on their day of rest;
  • paid at least three rest days each year after working for the same employer for one year;
  • paid weekly; and,
  • protected against harassment under the New York State Human Rights Law.

New York’s law mandates employers:

  • pay an eight hour work day at the minimum wage of at least $8.75 per hour (with a credit toward the minimum wage if the employer provides meals and/or lodging to the employee);
  • provide written notice about sick leave, vacation, personal leave, holidays and work hours;
  • keep detailed payroll and time records of the hours the employee worked, wages paid and deductions;
  • pay taxes for unemployment insurance if the household employee is paid $500 or more in cash wages; and,
  • obtain workers’ compensation insurance (to cover work-related injury or sickness) for an employee working at least 40 hours per week, and disability benefits (for when an employee cannot work because of injury or sickness (including pregnancy) from an event occurring outside work).

California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Oregon now have similar Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights laws, and other states, including Illinois, Ohio, and Texas, are working to offer comparable protections.

Why did these laws come about?

Employers—from household employers to large corporations—regularly fail to pay overtime or fail to pay for all hours worked. Termed “wage theft,” this practice amounts to an estimated $105 billion per year in stolen wages, according to the national report Home Economics: The Invisible & Unregulated World of a Domestic Worker. This report, issued by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and DataCenter, found:

  • $10/hour is the median hourly wage for the domestic workers surveyed;
  • nearly a quarter (23 percent) of survey respondents are paid less than their state’s minimum wage;
  • slightly more than half (56 percent) of the survey respondents worked more than 40 hours per week for their primary employer;
  • many domestic workers are paid a flat rate that does not fluctuate based on hours worked;
  • widespread substandard working conditions, which go unreported largely due to domestic workers’ isolation in the workplaces; and,
  • domestic work, though conducted in private homes, contributes substantially to the public good. Household labor is a linchpin connecting the economics of the home and the workplace.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.