Good news for domestic workers (especially caregivers and nannies)

Good news for domestic workers (especially caregivers and nannies)

Q: THANK you for keeping us updated on the latest employment laws. I work as a caregiver/housekeeper for a senior couple in Los Angeles. Back in 2014, they started paying me overtime because they said it was the new law. But I heard from another caregiver friend that this new overtime law is only temporary for caregivers and starting 2017, we will not be entitled to overtime again. Is this true?

A: Not anymore. It is true that on January 1, 2014, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights took effect, which entitled personal attendants (such as caregivers and nannies) working in private households, to overtime pay if they work more than 9 hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week. Before 2014, personal attendants were not entitled to overtime. (They were entitled to be paid at least the minimum wage but not overtime.)

After the 2014 law took effect, California lawmakers had three years (or until 2017) to either revoke the overtime pay for personal attendants or make it permanent. After studying reports regarding the effects of the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights on the affected employees and their employers, lawmakers decided to make the overtime law for personal attendants permanent. This new law was then signed by California’s governor on September 12, 2016. So personal attendants do not have to worry. They will still be entitled to overtime after 2017.

This new law making personal attendants permanently entitled to overtime is welcome news for domestic workers everywhere in California. UCLA Labor Center reports that about 2 million households in California hire domestic workers for housecleaning (54%), homecare support for seniors and disabled persons (27%), and childcare (19%). Many of these domestic workers are live-in, and a significant number work 24-hour shifts.

Personal attendants are some of the most exploited and underpaid of domestic workers. As one California lawmaker put it, “Domestic workers who care for property such as landscaping or housekeeping are generally entitled to overtime.  Those domestic workers who care for children, the infirm, the elderly, and those with disabilities [are] not.” The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights is aimed to correct this injustice and to provide personal attendants equal treatment under the law.

Thus, starting 2014, personal attendants became entitled to overtime pay of one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked over nine hours in any workday and for all hours worked more than 45 hours in the workweek. Personal attendants are those domestic workers who supervise, feed, or dress a child, or a person of advanced age, physical disability, or mental deficiency who needs supervision.

In our years of practice, however, we have found that many persons who say they are “caregivers” or “nannies” really have other work tasks that are not related to being a personal attendant. Many of these workers actually spend several hours on housekeeping duties, such as cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cooking food for the entire family, or buying groceries for the entire household. Under the law, “personal attendants” who devote more than 20% of their work hours to housekeeping work (not just feeding, dressing, or supervising someone), are entitled to overtime pay, even if these tasks occurred before 2014.

Another important issue to consider is that live-in caregivers and nannies are often made to stay at home even during supposedly off-duty hours, or are required to wake up at night, to attend to their charges. These personal attendants do not get any day off, or at least 5 straight hours of sleep. This effectively puts them on a 24-hour shift, 6 to 7 days per week. The problem is that even with this round-the-clock work requirement, they are not paid for all of the hours they worked.

In the above situations, it is best for the domestic worker or caregiver to consult with an experienced employment attorney to find out if they are entitled to additional back wages and how such wages can be paid to them.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. 

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C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. is an experienced trial attorney who has successfully obtained significant recoveries for thousands of employees and consumers. He is named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently Aselected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a member of the Million Dollar-Advocates Forum. 

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