Philadelphia’s domestic worker bill of rights law went into effect on May 1, 2020.
The law guarantees several labor rights for the city’s 16,000 household employees. It is considered one of the strongest laws in the nation that protects domestic workers and makes Philadelphia the largest U.S. city to extend labor rights to household employees.
Household employers are now required to provide their workers with written employment contracts, meal and rest breaks, and paid and unpaid leave.
Under the law, domestic workers include nannies, housekeepers, senior caregivers, chefs, butlers, and others who provide services in the home.
Those specifically excluded from the law include family members, house sitters, pet sitters, dog walkers, home daycares, repair and maintenance persons, home healthcare workers paid through public funds, and anyone under the age of 18.
Employers of domestic workers must:
- Notify their employees of their rights
- Provide their employees with the protections and benefits defined in the law
- Keep records that show compliance.
Philadelphia joins nine states — California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon — along with the city of Seattle that have enacted legislation to protect domestic workers.
Here are more details on what the law entails.
Required work agreement
Household employers are required to have a legally binding written work agreement with any employee that works five or more hours per month. The agreement needs to outline:
- Job duties
- Hours of work
- Weekly schedules
- Pay rates (standard hourly and overtime)
- Manner and frequency of payment
- Meal and rest breaks
- Paid time off (PTO)
- Paid holidays
- Unpaid leave
- Other benefits provided
- Modes of transportation required and whether provided
- Value of housing (if provided)
- Sleeping period and personal time for live-in workers
- Term of the agreement
- Other terms and conditions agreed to
If a family does not provide a work agreement, then the employee will fall under a template contract put together by the city.
Rest and meal breaks
The law outlines benefits that must be offered including periodic rest and meal breaks and paid time off. Employees are entitled to a paid 10-minute break every four hours and a paid 30-minute meal break after every five hours.
If they do not get those breaks, their employer is required to pay them for an extra hour of work. For example, it may be impractical for a nanny to take a break for rest or a meal while looking after children. If they work an eight-hour day without a break, then they will need to be paid for an extra hour. For a Monday-Friday workweek that could mean five extra hours of pay for the nanny.
Live-in workers will be guaranteed one unpaid day off after working for six consecutive days.
Household employers must provide paid leave to their workers at a rate of one hour per 40 hours of work. Paid leave is capped at 40 hours/year and can be used:
- When their scheduled work time is canceled or changed
- For any of the reasons under Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
- For significant and unexpected personal matters.”
Household employees can accrue unpaid leave at the same rate as paid leave. This leave can be used for any of the reasons under Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.
Live-in employees may not work more than six consecutive days without a 24-hour period of rest, which can be unpaid.
Portable paid leave and sick days
Household employees will be able to accrue and use paid leave and sick days even if they work for multiple families or change jobs during the year. A centralized reporting system will manage this paid time off benefit.
An enforcement board will ensure employers and workers know how to track hours and PTO accrual. Employees will be entitled to up to five days of paid time off.
Note: The paid leave requirement will not go into effect until the paid leave compensation system is developed through future legislation.
Household employers must provide two weeks’ notice before terminating an employee and four weeks for live-in workers. There are provisions for severance pay if this notice is not followed.
Severance pay is calculated as the employee’s regular hourly rate multiplied by the regularly scheduled number of hours over the period of time the required notification was not provided.
For example, let’s take a nanny working 40 hours a week at $15/hour who was terminated without notice. They would be entitled to $1,200 in severance pay.
There is an exception for cases of “significant misconduct.”
Household employees are prohibited from:
- Keeping the originals of their employee’s personal documents (such as those provided to complete Form I-9)
- Monitoring or recording their employee while using bathroom facilities, in their private living quarters, or while changing clothes
- Monitoring or interfering with their private communications
Discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation
The law protects household employees from discrimination, wage theft, and sexual harassment while also prohibiting retaliation when a worker exercises their right to file a complaint against their employer.
Retaliation includes threatening to report an employee’s or a family member’s suspected citizenship or immigration status, or otherwise interfering with, restraining, or denying the exercise of a domestic worker’s rights under the law.
A household employer could face a fine of up to $2,000 per violation if they are out of compliance. Further fines and violations can occur if the employer takes retaliatory action against an employee for filing a claim.
Also, household workers can sue their employers for violations of the domestic workers’ bill of rights even before filing a complaint. If the employee prevails, they can be awarded relief including reinstatement of employment, back pay, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees and costs.
Minimum wage and overtime
While the protections in the legislation are extensive, it could not set overtime pay or minimum wage rates. A Pennsylvania state law prohibits the city from setting its’ own rates.
The law created a Domestic Workers Standards and Implementation Board, which would oversee the enforcement and implementation of the law.
Violations of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights
- Failure to provide a written contract
- Failure to provide meal and rest breaks
- Failure to track and provide paid time off
- Engaging in discrimination or sexual harassment
- Engaging in labor trafficking, including keeping personal documents
- Engaging in workplace surveillance of a domestic worker
- Failure to provide two weeks notice of termination or two weeks severance pay
- Failure to provide four weeks notice of termination or four weeks severance pay to live-in workers
- Retaliating against a domestic worker for exercising their rights under this law, including threats around immigration status
- Failure to notify employees of their rights and keep records that demonstrate compliance.
Required notice of rights
Household employers must provide their workers with a notice outlining their rights under the domestic worker’s bill of rights. This notice should include information on how to file a complaint if the employee believes their rights have been violated. As of now, a model notice has not yet been provided.
Household employers must maintain records documenting
- Hours worked
- Pay rate
- Leave time earned and used
- Existence of a written contract
GTM can help
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