Domestic Workers May Now Claim Workers’ Comp in New York

Hailed as the first Bill of Rights for domestic workers, a new law in New York provides housekeepers, nannies and other domestic workers with rights they have sought for over 75 years. Until now, this industry has been largely unregulated.

The new law defines a domestic worker as a person employed in a home for the purpose of caring for a child; serving as a companion for a sick, convalescing or elderly person; housekeeping; or for any other domestic service. Individuals working on a casual basis or who are related to the employer by blood, marriage, or adoption are excluded.

Under this novel legislation, domestic workers must be paid overtime at a rate of one and a half their hourly salary for any work in excess of eight hours per day. Workers employed for at least one calendar year are entitled to three paid days off. Employees who work 20 hours per week are entitled to six paid holidays. Workers employed for at least 40 hours per week are also entitled to seven days of paid sick leave per year.

Domestic workers are now also entitled to workers' compensation and unemployment benefits. The new law amends New York's Human Rights Law (Executive Law) to provide domestic workers with causes of action for discrimination or harassment based on gender, race, religion or national origin.

The domestic worker industry mostly operates in employers' private homes and has been rife with exploitation of its mostly female and immigrant workforce. New York's landmark legislation is the first to extend rights to those workers that most other types of labor have enjoyed for decades. Domestic workers' advocacy groups in both California and Colorado are pushing for similar laws in their states.