How New York State Law Provides Rights to Domestic Workers

Historically, domestic workers were not given the same employment rights as individuals working in large companies. This has placed hardship on the people who clean homes, take care of children and the elderly, and those who cook meals for families in home environments.

Fortunately, New York State labor laws now include the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which provides several important provisions:

  • Workweek and overtime – For workers who work more than 40 hours (44 hours if they live in the employer’s home), additional hours must be paid at 150 percent of the existing wage (time-and-a-half, for example a $10/hour standard wage would be $15/hour in overtime). Every domestic worker is due one day off per week, unless the worker consents to work the seventh day at overtime pay.
  • Protection from sexual or other forms of harassment – Employers are forbidden to engage in physical or verbal harassment as a condition of employment.
  • Fair pay – Employers must pay the minimum wage ($7.25/hour) or more.
  • Pay protection – Pay cannot be reduced for breakage or other reasons. The worker is due to be paid for the hours worked.
  • Unemployment and Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage – Workers who earn $500 or more per quarter are due unemployment insurance, paid by the employer. The employer is also obligated to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage to all domestic workers who work 40 hours per week or more.
  • Entrepreneurial assistance – If you decide to start your own domestic services business, the Empire State Development Corporation provides assistance through the Entrepreneurial Assistance Program and the Division of Minority and Women-Owned Businesses.

These rights are provided regardless of the worker’s citizenship or residency status, including undocumented workers. When any of these rights have been violated, the domestic worker should file a complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. If you have questions about your rights as a worker in New York State, speak to a knowledgeable employment lawyer.

 

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