Domestic workers, such as in-home caregivers, play a vital role in our society. Federal and New Jersey employment laws treat some domestic workers differently than other workers, including exemptions for minimum wage and overtime pay. The federal government has made it a priority to improve legal protections for domestic workers. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued a series of sample employment contracts for domestic workers that outline their legal rights. New Jersey is making similar improvements, such as the New Jersey Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (DWBR), which the governor signed into law in January 2024.
The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) sets a nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime work. The law contains numerous exceptions and exemptions, including domestic workers in certain circumstances. The DOL defines “domestic service employment” as “services of a household nature” performed in a private home. This may include babysitters, nannies, home health aides, nurses, and handymen.
As a general rule, the FLSA provides the same protections for domestic workers regarding minimum wage and overtime as it does for other workers. It does, however, make two exemptions:
– Section 13(a)(15) of the FLSA exempts several types of workers from its minimum wage and overtime provisions: babysitters who are “employed on a casual basis” and individuals who “provide companionship services” to people who cannot care for themselves. The DOL interprets employment “on a casual basis” to mean that the individual does not rely solely on babysitting income or only provides services intermittently. The “companion” exemption applies to individuals who care for an “elderly person or person with an illness, injury, or disability.”
– Section 13(b)(21) exempts live-in domestic workers from the FLSA’s overtime provisions.