Last year Seattle became the first major U.S. city to pass labor protections for household employees. The city’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights took effect on July 1, 2019.
An estimated 33,000 household employees work in Seattle.
The law provides minimum wage, rest break, and meal break rights to nannies, senior caregivers and other employees who work in a private home.
It includes full-time, part-time, and temporary household employees. Au pairs and workers who are hired by a family member are not covered under the law.
The Seattle Office of Labor Standards will oversee this law.
Household employees – including live-in employees – have the right to earn Seattle’s hourly minimum wage rate, which is one of the highest in the country. The rate is currently $15/hour if you don’t contribute an employee’s medical benefits ($12/hour if you do). The city’s minimum wage will increase to $15.75/hour ($13.50/hour with contributions to employee medical benefits) in 2020.
Meal periods and rest breaks
Household employees are required to receive a 30-minute, uninterrupted meal period when they work for more than five consecutive hours. They also get a paid 10-minute uninterrupted rest break for every four consecutive hours of work.
For some household employees – like nannies – it may be infeasible to take a meal or rest break. In these cases, the family must provide additional compensation for the missed breaks.
Days of rest
If a household employee works for more than six consecutive days, they have a right to an unpaid day of rest.
Civil rights protections
In September 2018, Seattle added employment discrimination protections for household employees to the city’s existing Fair Employment Practices law.
Due to the isolated nature of their work, household employees can be vulnerable and at risk of experiencing inappropriate behavior, including sexual harassment.
The city’s Office for Civil Rights will oversee these protections.
Families are not allowed to retain their employee’s original documents or other personal effects such as a passport, Social Security card or driver’s license. An employee may submit these documents at the time of hire with their Form I-9 to prove their identity and authorization to work in the U.S. Families should make copies of the submitted documents, keep the copies with the completed Form I-9 in the employee’s personnel file, and return the original documents to their employee.
Domestic Workers’ Standards Board
The Domestic Workers Standards Board provides a forum for families with household help, household employees, worker organizations, and the public “to consider, analyze, and make recommendations to the City on other possible legal protections and standards for domestic workers.”
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