On June 26, 2016, the Illinois General Assembly approved the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. In short, the law would provide greater workplace protections for domestic workers, such as caregivers and house cleaners, that were previously unavailable. The bill is sitting on Governor Bruce Rauner’s desk for his signature.
What’s the Problem?
Domestic workers are not protected by many federal and state employment laws. Many laws protecting workers only apply to companies with a minimum number of employees. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 applies to employers with 15 or more employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act only to employers with 50 or more employees, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to employers with 20 or more employees. As most companies employing domestic workers only have a few employees, these laws do not effectively protect them.
Moreover, some laws specifically exclude domestic workers from the employment protections. For example, the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to form a union and negotiate for better pay, does not protect individuals “in the domestic service of any family or person at home.” 29 U.S.C. § 152(3). Similarly, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which sets minimum standards of health and safety at the workplace, does not cover domestic workers. 29 C.F.R. § 1975.6.
Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
The proposed legislation adds several employment protections for domestic workers. The bill generally applies to people performing “domestic work,” which includes housekeeping, nanny services, caregiving, and companion services, among other duties. The bill provides the following protections for domestic employees:
- The bill allows domestic workers to be protected by Illinois’ Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in Illinois with respect to employment on the basis of race, color religion, sex, national origin, ancestry, military status, age, marital status, sexual orientation, and disability.
- The bill adds domestic workers as individual covered by the Illinois Minimum Wage Law, which mandates Illinois employers to pay their employers the minimum wage (currently $8.25) and overtime for all hours worked over forty in a given week.
- Domestic workers must be allowed to have a 24-hour consecutive rest break in every calendar week. The domestic worker can voluntarily agree to work on such day of rest, but the employer is required to pay all hours worked on the rest day the overtime rate, even if the employee has not worked at least forty hours in the given week.
The Governor has 60 days to take action on the legislation. If he approves the bill, it will become effective on January 1, 2017. Domestic workers are often overworked and underpaid, and it is good to see these long-overdue employment protections close to becoming Illinois law.