Do Domestic Workers Have Employee Rights?

Domestic workers perform a variety of household services, including childcare, cooking, housekeeping, gardening, and even healthcare services for the aged and infirm. Rights for domestic workers vary wildly for the estimated 52.6 million domestic workers around the world. According to the International Labour Organization, only ten percent of all domestic workers are protected by legislated employee rights.

Worldwide, 83 per cent of domestic workers are women.

In the United States, some domestic workers are protected under the Federal Labor Standards Act. Congress extended FLSA coverage to domestic service workers in 1974, amending the law to apply to employees performing services of a household nature in or about a private home.

Which Domestic Workers are Covered by the FLSA?

  • Persons employed in domestic service in households are covered by the FLSA.
  • Nurses, certified nurse aides, home health care aides, and other individuals providing home health care services fall within the term “domestic service employment.”
  • Companions to the elderly who spend more than 20 percent of their time performing general household work.
  • Nannies who care for minor children, where the children are not physically or mentally infirm.

U.S. Home Healthcare Workers in the Spotlight

Recent legislation has focused on improving conditions for workers specifically employed in home healthcare. Healthcare workers who provide home health care services may be eligible for minimum wage and/or overtime premium pay depending upon the type of services they provide. For example, employees providing “companionship services” are not eligible for minimum wage or overtime pay.

Different Rights in Different States

New York enacted the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights in November of 2010. That Act contains more protections to domestic workers than the FLSA, including clarifications regarding rest periods and provisions for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment.

In California, however, Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation in October 2012. With 200,000 domestic workers in California, workers are considered especially vulnerable to inequitable treatment, because they are a largely immigrant and female work force.


Submitted by Chaunce Stanton

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