Having officially gone into effect on the first of April 2015, the Massachusetts Domestic Worker Law Chapter 149,§ 190-91 now provides additional rights to domestic workers and new compliance issues for their employers.
The Definition of a Domestic Worker and Employer in Regards to the Law
Any individual or employee who is paid to perform domestic duties inside a household is identified in Section 190 (a).
Who are Domestic Workers?
The roles covered under this new law include:
- Housekeeping and cleaning;
- Home management and nanny services
- Care-taking of sick and elderly individuals
- Cooking and laundering;
- Home companion services; and
- Other services for household members and their guests
The law excludes:
- A personal care attendant or an individual whose vocation is not childcare; or
- An individual whose services for the employer primarily consist of childcare on a casual, intermittent and irregular basis for 1 or more family or household members.
Hence a casual baby sister or a personal care attendant are not defined as a “domestic care worker” pursuant to M.G.L. c. 149, Section 190(a)
Who are Employers?
Employers must directly employ the domestic worker regardless if they have ownership interest in the household or not.
Employers are not:
- Staffing agencies;
- Employment agencies;
- Placement agencies; or
- Or an individuals to whom a personal care attendant provides services.
Payment Is Due for All Working Time
Every domestic worker is required full pay for all working time by the employer. This includes all time on the employer’s premise with a few exceptions. All meal and rest periods must be paid unless the domestic worker is allowed to leave the premise, use the time for his or her sole benefit, is completely relieved of all work duties, or if there is a written agreement between the domestic worker and the employer that these times are not paid.
Sleep time doesn’t need to be paid if the domestic worker has 24 hour shifts or longer, a written agreement was signed between the employer and the worker, sleeping time isn’t interrupted by work, or if adequate sleeping quarters is provided by the employer.
Required Rest, Food, and Lodging
If working at least 40 hours per week, the employer must provide at least 24 hours of consecutive rest time for the domestic worker under the new Massachusetts law. Per month there has to be 48 hours of consecutive rest that match religious worship if applicable.
If the domestic worker voluntarily decides to work during their 24 hour or 48 rest period, time and a half must be paid as overtime by the employer for every hour worked.
The domestic worker does not need to pay for food and beverages unless they are voluntarily chosen, there is a written agreement indicating the cost of food, or the domestic worker could easily bring his or her own food. If food is to be charged it cannot exceed $1.50 for breakfast, $2.25 for lunch, and $2.25 for dinner.
Lodging should not be paid for by the domestic worker unless it’s voluntary and accepted, the domestic worker wants to use the lodging, or if an agreement is signed between both parties. If lodging is accepted it must be safe and sanitary meeting housing standards and not cost more than $35 per week for a room occupied by one person, $30 if occupied by two and $25 if occupied by three or more.
Employment Agreement and Right to Request a Written Evaluation
For domestic workers that are employed for 16 hours or more each week, they have the right to request an employment agreement that outlines the rate of pay and overtime rate. It will also include the job responsibilities, working hours, any provided benefits like sick time, vacation, or health care, any fees or costs like food or lodging, the right to collect workers compensation, and any other rights or benefits the employer will provide to the domestic worker.
Additionally, after three months of employment, the domestic worker can request a written evaluation to ensure duties are being performed adequately. After the first evaluation, they can be completed every year. The domestic worker has the right to dispute it as well under the Personnel Records Law.
Live-in Domestic Workers Need Notice Before Termination
In the event of termination without cause, a written notice and at least 30 days of lodging on site or in equivalent accommodations or severance pay equivalent to 2 weeks’ pay must be provided to a live-in domestic worker. But if the employer makes an allegation in writing of abuse, neglect or other harmful behavior, the right to notice, lodging, and severance is waived.
Protection Under the Law
If a domestic worker who works 16 hours or more each week asserts his or her rights under this law, they are protected from retaliation from the employer. Further, in no way can an employer engage in sex trafficking or other “forced services.” Any domestic worker sexual harassment claims can be filed to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).
If you are working as a domestic worker you should know your rights. If you think they have been violated, get in contact today. Your employer may be liable to up to treble damages plus attorney fees and cost.