The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights took effect in Illinois on January 1st, 2017. This article explains what your rights are as domestic worker.
Who is a domestic worker?
You are a domestic worker if you are regularly employed to do 8 hours a week of work in the following areas:
- House cleaning
- Home management
- Nanny services
- Caregiving, personal care, or home health services for elderly persons or persons with an illness, injury, or disability
- Companion services
- Other household services for members of households or their guests in or around a private home, residence, or any other location
What are my rights as a domestic worker?
Domestic workers have the following rights:
- Minimum wage: Workers must be paid $8.25 per hour
- One day rest in 7: Workers must get at least 24 hours of rest per calendar week, and a meal period of at least 20 minutes for every 7.5-hour shift
- Fair wages: Women and minors must be paid fairly
- Protection from harassment: Workers must not be sexually harassed
See more info below on each of these rights.
I am a domestic worker. Am I an employee?
It depends on how much control you have over your work. You are not an employee if you do most of the following:
- Decide how you will do your work;
- Set your hours;
- Make profits;
- Work from your own home;
- Provide the supplies for your work; and
- Offer to serve the general public.
Can my boss abuse me?
No. Your boss cannot abuse you. Abuse can be any of the following:
- Forced physical contact
- Forced sexual contact
Abuse is a crime. You should report it to the police.
Can my boss discriminate against me?
If your employer has 15 or more employees, you are protected from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, marital status, order of protection status, disability, military status, sexual orientation, or unfavorable discharge from military service. There are two exceptions to this small-employer exemption. In cases where you allege either handicap discrimination or sexual harassment, there is no minimum number of employees.
However, depending on the county where you work, the number of employees may not matter and you may be protected against discrimination and harassment. For example, if you work in Cook County, your boss cannot discriminate against you or sexually harass you. If you believe you have been the subject of illegal discrimination or harassment and you work in Cook County, contact the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. You may also contact the Chicago Commission on Human Relations if you work in Chicago. If you work in another county or municipality, contact your county to find out about its laws regarding discrimination and harassment.
What is the minimum wage for domestic workers?
In Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. This also applies to domestic workers.
If you work in Chicago, the minimum wage is $12 per hour.
Live-in workers (who reside at the job site permanently or for at least 4 consecutive nights and 5 consecutive days) must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked, but they are not entitled to overtime pay. Live-in workers do not need to be paid for time spent sleeping, eating, or for personal entertainment if they are completely free from all duties. However, they must be paid for these time periods if they are interrupted to perform work.
You may not need to be paid minimum wage for time spent eating or sleeping if:
- You are on duty for a shift that lasts 24 hours or more;
- You agreed to not include meal periods;
- You agreed to not include sleeping periods of 8 hours or less;
- Your boss gives you an area to sleep in and you can sleep without being bothered; or
- You primarily provide companionship.
Am I a live-in worker if I work 24 hours shifts?
It depends. To be a live-in worker (and not entitled to overtime), you must live at the home all the time or at least 5 days a week (sleeping 4 consecutive nights on the premises). If your job lasts for only a few weeks, you are not a live-in worker.
What are work hours?
Work hours are time spent working or waiting for work. If you are in the home but are not working, that time is usually not considered work hours.
Can I get paid for travel time?
Yes. You must be paid for running errands and traveling with your boss. You do not have to be paid for normal travel time to and from work. If you work for an agency, you must be paid for time spent traveling between job sites.
Can I get paid for overtime?
It depends. If you do not live at your job site, you must be paid time and a half after working 40 hours per week. If you live at your job site, you are not entitled to overtime.
Regardless of whether you live at your job site, you’re entitled to one day off during the calendar week. If you choose to work on that day of rest, you’re entitled to an overtime rate for every hour you work that day.
Taking breaks at work
If you work at least 7.5 hours in one day, your employer must provide a 20 minute paid meal break. This break should be no later than 5 hours into your shift. The meal period can be unpaid if you are relieved from all duties and lasts for more than 20 minutes.
For certain types of jobs, such as if you monitor individuals with disabilities and are required to be on-call, your employer only needs to allow you to eat a meal during your shift while continuing to monitor those individuals.
Taking time off from work
If your total work hours per week are more than 20, by law, you are entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest in a calendar week. This means you if work 6 days in a week, you are allowed by law to take the 7th day off. If your religion has a weekly day of rest, your weekly day off should coincide with that day of rest, whenever possible.
You are not required to take a weekly day off. If you choose to work on this day of rest, your employer must pay you an overtime rate for each hour worked that day.
How often must I be paid?
You must be paid at least twice per month. The payments should come no later than 13 days after the pay period. When you are hired, your boss must tell you how you will be paid.
Can my boss take money from my paycheck?
Your boss can take out the following from your wages:
- Food and housing, but only if you’ve agreed to it and your boss tells you the amount in advance
- Social Security
- Medicare taxes
- Income taxes
What cannot be deducted from my wages?
The following items cannot be deducted from your wages:
- Safety equipment
- Work tools
- Any employer-owned equipment
- The employer’s share of insurance premiums
- Insurance premiums for workers’ compensation or unemployment insurance
- Broken or spoiled items owned by your employer
Can I pay into social security?
Yes. You can pay into social security. Minors can pay into social security if domestic work is their main job. If your boss pays you at least $2,000, they must deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes from your wages.
Does my employer have to provide me with health insurance?
No, household employers do not have to provide health insurance.
Can I get workers’ compensation?
Yes. If you are injured on the job, you can get workers' compensation if
you work at least 40 hours per week for at least 13 weeks in a year.
Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance and cannot charge you for any portion of the insurance premium. Employers are also prohibited from firing or retaliating against employees who are injured on the job.
If you are injured at work, you should notify your employer immediately. For more information about workers’ compensation or to file a claim, contact the Illinois Industrial Commission.
Unemployment compensation for domestic workers
You may get unemployment compensation if you quit for a good cause or are fired (unless you are discharged for misconduct in connection to the work or for a felony or theft in connection to your work).
To qualify, you must have:
- Earned at least $1600 during a recent 12 month period;
- Earned at least $440 outside of the 12 month period
Contact the Illinois Department of Employment Security for more information at (800) 244-5631.
Paying taxes on domestic workers' wages
For the 2016 tax season, single people who earn at least $10,350 per year ($11,900 if over age 65) must pay federal income taxes. Married couples who earn at least $20,700 per year must payfederal income taxes ($21,950 if one spouse is over age 65; $23,200 if both spouses are over age 65). You should also check to see if you need to pay state or municipal taxes. Your boss does not have to withhold taxes. You can agree with your boss to do so. If you do not withhold taxes, you may owe money when you file your tax returns.