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Protection of Domestic Workers in New York

Our New York employment law attorneys uphold the rights of domestic workers.

You are a “domestic worker” if you are employed in a home or residence 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 purpose. Domestic workers often labor under harsh conditions, work long hours for low wages with few benefits and little job security, and are isolated in their workplaces. They can be endangered by sexual harassment and assault, as well as verbal, emotional and psychological abuse on the basis of gender, race, religion or national origin.

The New York State Human Rights Law was amended, effective November 29, 2010, to provide protection from workplace harassment for domestic workers. Unlawful harassment includes sexual harassment, as well as harassment on the basis of gender, race, religion or national origin. Domestic workers are also protected from retaliation by their employers for complaining of such harassment.

Sexual harassment can consist of unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment occurs when any of the following is true:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of your employment, such that you believe you would be fired if you object, or you would have to quit in order to escape from the conduct.
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by you is used as the basis for employment decisions, such as the setting of your hours or pay rate.
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with your work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.

Some examples of sexually harassing conduct include:

  • Pressure to engage in unwelcome sexual activities.
  • Unnecessary or inappropriate physical contact.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Verbal harassment or abuse in the form of a pattern of sexual comments or questions.
  • Displays of lewd photographs or drawings.

Harassment consists of actions which have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with your work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment. Harassment of domestic workers is in violation of the Human Rights Law when it is:

  • Directed at you because of your gender, race, religion or national origin; or
  • Consists of offensive or humiliating comments or jokes about people of your gender, race, religion or national origin.

Here are some other rights that domestic workers have in New York:

  • Minimum Wage. Domestic workers are entitled to be compensated at the statutory minimum wage rate.
  • Overtime Pay. Domestic workers are entitled to overtime pay for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week or, in the case of a “live-in” worker, 44 hours per week. Overtime pay is at least one and one-half times your normal wage rate.
  • Day of Rest. Domestic workers are entitled to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest in each calendar week. You may voluntarily agree to work on your day of rest if compensated at the overtime rate for all hours you work on the day of rest.
  • Paid Vacation. After one year of performing domestic work with the same employer, you are entitled to at least three days of rest in each calendar year at the regular rate of compensation.

You are NOT covered by the Human Rights Law as a domestic worker if you:

  • Work on only a casual basis. Examples would be occasional babysitting or other household services for a limited amount of time, are performed without regularity, or are performed only during intermittent periods; or
  • Work for a person related to you by blood, marriage or adoption.

If you work for an agency, the laws that apply to you are different from those that apply to someone who works directly for a family. In fact, if you work for an agency, you cannot bring suit for harassment against the family for which you work. However, if the agency has at least four employees, and you are fired or subject to other negative change in your terms of work by the agency because of your race, creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, age, marital status, military status, you can bring a claim against the agency under the Human Rights Law.

Furthermore, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and New York State Labor Laws protect you, whether you are:

  • A citizen of the United States;
  • A legal permanent resident;
  • An immigrant with other lawful status (e.g. temporary protected status);
  • An undocumented worker

In other words, these laws cover ALL workers. Immigration status DOES NOT MATTER.

If you believe your rights as a domestic worker have been violated, an employment lawyer at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, is here to help you. Call us or fill out our online contact form to talk to one of an employment law attorney with Cohen & Jaffe. We will respond to you immediately and aggressively pursue justice for you.