Rights of Domestic Workers

Written by cate rushton
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The category of domestic worker covers many job titles. Nannies, housekeepers, in-home cooks, in-home health providers and caregivers and gardeners are some examples. In many countries, domestic workers have few or no rights. However, in the United States, domestic workers are, ideally, protected by state and federal employment laws. Under the law, immigration status does not matter.


Employers must pay domestic workers at least the federal or state minimum wage. A lower training wage is allowable, but only if the employee has absolutely no experience doing the work. The training wage can be no more than 15 per cent lower than minimum wage. If the domestic worker does not live at the employer's home, overtime wages are required to be paid after working eight hours or 40 hours per week. Overtime pay is to be time-and-a-half of regular pay. Wages should be paid at least twice a month, and payment by check, money order or cash is required. Employers are required to provide domestic workers with an itemised statement showing hours worked, pay and deductions.


If the worker lives in the employer's home, he or she is entitled to at least 12 hours of free time per day. Live-in domestic workers are not required to work more than five consecutive days. If an employee is scheduled to work, but is not allowed to work those hours, the employer is required to pay for half of the scheduled hours at the regular wage. This law does not apply if "acts of God" are the cause for the missed work. If a domestic worker is working longer than a six-hour shift, the worker is entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes after five hours. After 10 hours, another meal break is mandatory. After every four hours worked, domestic workers are entitled to at least a 10-minute break.

Uniforms, Tools, etc.

Uniforms for domestic workers must be provided by the employer. The maintenance of uniforms is also the responsibility of the employer. If a domestic worker is paid at least double the minimum wage, the worker can be required to provide his own tools. The employer must pay for any physical exam that is required prior to starting work.


Upon termination, all unpaid wages are to be paid to the employee immediately. If an employer refuses to pay wages earned, the domestic worker has the right to be paid for up to 30 days, until paid. A fired employee can file a claim with the Labor Commission if wages are not paid.


It is against the law for employers to retaliate against domestic workers who file a complaint. It is against the law for employers to prohibit domestic workers to discuss working conditions or rate of pay with others. If any rights are refused, a domestic worker can file a complaint with the Labor Commission. At the hearing for the complaint, the domestic worker is entitled to have an attorney present, to testify personally, to have witnesses testify, to provide evidence, to cross-examine the employer and to have a translator present if needed.

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