Domestic Workers’ Rights Under New Jersey Employment Law

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.

New Jersey used to exempt domestic workers from many aspects of state law, including minimum wage, overtime, and protections against workplace discrimination and harassment. The DWBR will end that when it takes effect later this year. Domestic workers will be entitled to the state minimum wage of $15.13 per hour, along with meal and rest breaks, a guarantee of at least one day off per week, and other rights. The new law’s definition of “domestic worker” is similar to the one found in the DOL’s regulations.

The DWBR will also require employers of domestic workers to have a written employment contract for any non-casual services that exceed five hours per month. The contract must include the following information:
– Job duties;
– Hourly and overtime wage;
– Work schedule and hours of work per week;
– Payment schedule;
– Meal and rest breaks;
– Sick leave and holiday leave;
– Transportation requirements;
– Housing, if provided, and its value; and
– Off-duty time for live-in employees.

In late 2023, the DOL issued sample contracts for three types of domestic jobs: cleaners, home care workers, and nannies. This is part of a policy, announced in April 2023 in an Executive Order, “to enable families…to have access to affordable, high-quality care and to have support and resources as caregivers themselves.” The sample contracts cover much of the information required by the DWBR.

If your employer has violated your rights by engaging in unlawful workplace practices, you may be entitled to monetary damages and other legal remedies. The experienced employment attorneys at the Resnick Law Group advocate for workers’ rights in New Jersey and New York. To schedule a confidential consultation to see what we can do to help you assert your rights, please contact us today online, at 973-781-1204, or at 646-867-7997.

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