New Labor Standards for Domestic Workers

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On July 23, 2018, the Seattle City Council voted to approve the Domestic Workers Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), a new labor standards legislation for domestic workers. The Ordinance will guarantee Seattle’s minimum wages, rest breaks and other rights for domestic workers. It will restrict a hiring entity from keeping any domestic worker’s original documents or other personal effects.

“Domestic worker” is narrowly construed to mean any worker who:

  1. Is paid by one or more hiring entities; and
  2. Provides domestic services to an individual or household in or about a private home as a nanny, house cleaner, home care worker, gardener, cook, or household manager.

Domestic workers include hourly and salaried employees, independent contractors, full-time and part-time workers, and temporary workers.

“Domestic worker” does not include any individual who is:

  1. Working on a casual basis. Casual refers to work that is:
    a) Irregular, uncertain, or incidental in nature and duration, and
    b) Different in nature from the type of paid work in which the worker is customarily engaged in.
  2. In a family relationship with the hiring entity; or
  3. A home care worker who is paid through public funds.

Many individuals may be surprised to realize that they are now “employers” subject to this Ordinance. According to the Ordinance, a “hiring entity” means any individual, partnership, association, corporation, business trust, or any entity, person, or group of persons that pays a wage or pays for the services of a domestic worker. It includes any entity or person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of a hiring entity in relation to the domestic worker.

The new law will create an appointed board under the name of Domestic Workers Standards Board (the “Board”) to oversee the industry.  The Board will establish standards around retirement benefits, workers’ compensation, and sick leave. The city Office of Labor Standards is in charge of enforcing the new ordinance.

Clients may have questions about whether they are an “employer” under this Ordinance, or whether a worker falls within the definition of “domestic worker” or about the obligations this Ordinance imposes. They also need to be aware that the Ordinance identifies several forms of impermissible “retaliation”, including that they cannot interfere with, restrain, deny, or attempt to deny any rights protected under the Ordinance.


About the Authors

Eduardo Reyes Chavez

Eduardo is an associate in the firm's litigation and employment practice groups.

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