The Domestic Worker Employment Rights Amendment Act of 2022 is now in effect in Washington, D.C. as the district joins 10 states and two major cities in enacting domestic worker protections.
The major components of the law include a requirement for work agreements in household employment and an extension of human rights as well as occupational health and safety protections for household employees.
The D.C. Council unanimously passed the bill in December 2022 during its final legislative session of the year. After a mayoral review in January, the act was transmitted to the U.S. Congress for review and recently became law. Under the District Clause of the Constitution, all District of Columbia legislation receives congressional review before it can become law.
There are estimated to be more than 9,000 household employees in Washington, D.C.
Here is an overview of some key components of the law.
Work agreements are now required in household employment
Under the law, household employers must have a work agreement (or services contract) in place with their employees no later than the first day of employment.
The work agreement must include:
- Start date of employment (and end date if applicable)
- Address where work will usually be performed
- Duties to be performed by the domestic worker
- Rate of pay per hour and overtime rate
- Form, place, and frequency of payment
- Date the first payment will be provided
- Weekly schedule, including days of the week, start time, end time, and number of hours of work per week
- Any rest breaks or meal breaks that are provided
- Types of leave from work provided and whether paid or unpaid
- Any other compensation or reimbursement provided by the household employer, such as health insurance premiums, transportation allowance, or separation pay;
- Whether the domestic worker must provide their own vehicle for the fulfillment of work duties
Even if any of these provisions don’t apply to the employment agreement between a household employer and their employee, the household employer still needs to specify in the work agreement the provisions that don’t apply.
For live-in domestic workers, the work agreement must include a description of the type and value of lodging provided, time of sleeping period, and personal time allotment.
The work agreement can’t:
- Require the domestic worker to waive any of these provisions
- Prohibit, punish, interfere with, or have the effect of deterring the domestic worker from filing a complaint or cooperating with an investigation
- Contain a non-compete provision to the extent prohibited in the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020
A household employer also must make reasonable efforts to provide a domestic worker with a translation of a work agreement in the domestic worker’s preferred language and retain the work agreement for at least three years.
The Washington D.C. mayor’s office will create work agreement templates that household employers may use to comply with the requirements of the domestic worker protection law. The templates will be published in English, Spanish, and at least five other languages that are the most commonly spoken languages in Washington, D.C. We anticipate these templates to be available in June.
There will also be information online on:
- how to use the work agreement templates
- answers to commonly asked questions about the domestic worker protections law
- information about the rights of domestic workers in Washington, D.C.
- resources provided by the United States Department of Labor regarding the rights of domestic workers
- resources detailing the federal and District obligations of hiring entities, including IRS Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide
- health and safety guidance for domestic workers and household employers to address the most common hazards domestic workers encounter in their workplaces and how to mitigate them
Violations of the law may result in penalties of no less than $250 for each infraction. However, violating the requirement to include “the duties to be performed by the domestic worker” in the work agreement could mean a penalty of no less than $500. On top of the penalties, household employers may owe relief payments to their domestic workers of either $250 or $500 (depending on the violation) for each violation.
Human rights protections are now extended to household employees
Washington D.C.’s Human Rights Act of 1977 has been amended to remove the exception for household employees from the protections of the law. The DC Human Rights Act makes discrimination illegal based on 23 protected traits for people who live, visit, or work in the District of Columbia. Some of these protected traits include age, color, disability, gender identity and expression, national origin, personal appearance, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation.
The law also provides protection against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Household employees now included in occupational safety and health protections
The D.C. Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1988 was updated to remove language that excluded domestic workers from the law’s protections.
Establishes domestic worker outreach
Washington, D.C. will work with community-based organizations to:
- Develop guidance for domestic workers and household employers to address the most common hazards domestic workers encounter in their workplaces and how to mitigate them
- Conduct education and outreach to domestic workers, household employers, and the public about the rights of domestic workers
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