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Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights
April 2, 2015
Massachusetts has become the 4th state to enact a bill of rights for domestic workers (joining California, New York, and Hawaii). These laws aim to protect the rights of household workers and establish labor standards for nannies, caregivers, and other domestic workers. The key item for most Massachusetts employers will be the requirement to have a written agreement, when you have an employee that works 16 hours or more per week. In addition, employers with live-in employees have new guidelines to be aware of.
For an entire version of the Massachusetts domestic workers law, please visit www.mass.gov/lwd/labor-standards/ and click on the link in the News and Updates section, but for a synopsis of the law, please see below:
- A domestic worker who works more than 16 hours per week has the right to a written agreement, which will include:
- Rate of pay, including overtime
- Whether additional pay is provided for added duties/multi-lingual skills
- Working hours including meal breaks and other time off
- Whether the employer provides benefits-paid or unpaid-days of rest, sick days, vacation days, personal days, holidays, health insurance, transportation costs, and the like
- Any fees or other costs, including costs for meals and lodging
- Responsibilities associated with the job
- Process for raising and addressing grievances and additional compensation if new duties are added
- The right to collect workers' compensation if injured
- Circumstances under which the employer will enter the domestic worker's designated living space on the employer's premises, if applicable
- The required notice of termination by either party
- Any other rights or benefits provided to the domestic worker
- An employer who employs a domestic worker for 40 hours a week or more shall provide a period of rest of at least 24 consecutive hours in each calendar week and at least 48 consecutive hours during each calendar month and, where possible, this time shall allow time for religious worship. If the domestic worker voluntarily works over 40 hours per week or during a day of rest, employer must pay overtime rate (time and a half) for each excess hour worked.
- When a domestic worker does not reside on the employer's premises and is on duty for less than 24 consecutive hours, the employer shall pay the domestic worker for all hours as working time. Meal and rest periods should be paid time unless the domestic worker can leave the premises, use the time for his/her sole use and benefit, is completely relieved of all works duties, and there is a written agreement not to be paid.
- When a domestic worker is required to be on duty for a period of 24 consecutive hours or more, the employer and domestic worker may agree, to exclude a regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than 8 hours from working time for each 24-hour period.
- No deductions for meals or lodging shall be made from a domestic worker's wages without the domestic worker's prior written consent. If the domestic worker does pay for food and/or lodging, specific criteria apply.
- A domestic worker shall have a right to privacy. An employer shall not restrict or interfere with a domestic worker's means of private communication, monitor a domestic worker's private communications, take any of the domestic worker's documents or other personal effects or engage in any conduct which constitutes forced services or trafficking of a person.
- A domestic worker may request a written evaluation for work performance from an employer after 3 months of employment and annually thereafter.
- If a domestic worker resides in the employer's household and the employer terminates employment without cause, the employer shall provide written notice and at least 30 days of lodging, wither on-site or in comparable off-site conditions, or severance pay in an amount equivalent to the domestic worker's average earnings during 2 weeks of employment. Neither notice nor a severance payment shall be required in cases involving good faith allegations that are made in writing with reasonable basis and belief and without reckless disregard or willful ignorance of the truth, that the domestic worker has abused, neglected or caused any other harmful conduct against the employer, members of the employer's family or individuals residing in the employer's home.
- Employer must keep all notices and agreements for at least two years. The employer will provide notice of domestic worker's rights under all applicable state and federal laws. The MA attorney general will be required to post on its website a sample written record of the information required.
Employer may not fire or discriminate against a domestic worker who seeks to assert his/her rights regarding fair wages and overtime.