NJ Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Becomes Effective in July 2024, Granting Significant Protections to Domestic Workers

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Earlier this year, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law the New Jersey’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. This law becomes effective July 1, 2024 and provides significant legal protections to “domestic workers” and corresponding obligations upon those individuals and entities that employ domestic workers. The law specifically applies to private individuals who hire certain domestic workers to perform domestic services, including specific rules for record-keeping, rest time, charges for food and lodging, and conditions for live-in domestic workers. Additionally, the bill enhances domestic workers rights by establishing protections against discrimination and harassment. It is important to note that the law specifically applies to private individuals who hire workers to perform domestic services as well as more traditional businesses such as home health care agencies.

How does the law define a domestic worker

Under the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights, a “domestic worker” includes an individual who works in a residence providing any of the following services:

  • caring for a child;
  • serving as a companion or caretaker for a sick, convalescing, or elderly person, or other person with disability;
  • housekeeping or house cleaning;
  • cooking;
  • providing food or butler services;
  • parking cars;
  • cleaning laundry;
  • gardening;
  • personal organizing; or
  • any other domestic service purpose.

The definition of domestic worker generally does not include family members. The good news for New Jersey parents is that the law also does not cover casual or part-time babysitters (i.e., individuals that provide childcare on an irregular basis and do not do it for a living). Independent contractors who provide domestic services are also excluded from the protections provided by the bill. However, to be an independent contractor, the worker must satisfy the requirements of New Jersey’s “ABC Test.”

Domestic workers are now protected by the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination

Prior to the enactment of the NJ Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which creates various rights and employment protections for domestic workers, such workers were not protected by New Jersey’s anti-discrimination law, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). As of July 1st, domestic workers will now be protected by NJLAD for the first time. Correspondingly, many employers of domestic workers will find themselves subject to New Jersey’s expansive anti-discrimination law.

Employers must provide domestic workers with a written agreement

The Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights prohibits an employer from hiring a domestic worker unless the engagement is governed by a written agreement. The written agreement must include:

  • a specific list of job duties;

  • the hourly wage and overtime rate;

  • the domestic worker’s weekly schedule, including the number of hours per week;

  • the manner and frequency of the payment of wages;

  • rest and meal breaks;

  • paid or unpaid leave, including sick time;

  • paid holidays;

  • other benefits;

  • whether transportation is provided and, if so, the mode thereof;

  • the value of housing, if provided;

  • the sleeping period and personal time for live-in domestic workers;

  • the term of the contract; and

  • any other terms agreed upon by the domestic worker and the employer.

The written agreement, cannot contain a mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clause, or a non-disclosure, non-competition, or non-disparagement agreement. The New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL) will create and publish model contracts that comply with the Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights.

Domestic workers are entitled to meal and rest breaks

The law entitles domestic workers to certain meal and rest breaks. For example, domestic workers are entitled to a 30-minute meal break after five consecutive hours of work. The meal break must be paid, unless the domestic worker is relieved of all job duties during the break and can leave the job site. Domestic workers are also entitled to a rest break of ten minutes for each four consecutive hours worked.

Live in domestic workers must receive an unpaid day off after working six consecutive days. Live in domestic workers also remain subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which requires live in domestic workers to be paid for the full 24 hour day unless the parties have a sleeping exclusion agreement that complies with FLSA regulations.

Domestic workers are entitled to advance notice of termination

The New Jersey Domestic Workers Bill of Rights requires employers to provide domestic workers with advanced notice of termination. Most domestic workers are entitled to two-weeks’ notice prior to termination, while live in domestic workers are entitled to four weeks’ notice. If an employer fails to provide the required notice, the domestic worker is entitled to severance equal to the domestic workers’ regular rate of pay times the regular number of hours worked for the notice period.

The only exception to the requirement to provide advanced notice of termination is in cases of “significant misconduct,” which the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights defines as when “the domestic worker abused, neglected, or caused any other harmful conduct against the employer, members of the employer’s family, or individuals residing in the employer’s household.”

Employers must provide domestic workers with notice of their rights under the Act

In addition to the other requirements imposed by the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights upon employers of domestic workers, such employers must also provide domestic workers with a notice of the workers rights under the law. The Department of Labor will be publishing a model notice.

Employers of domestic workers must also provide each worker with written notice of workers compensation insurance coverage.

Employer record keeping obligations

Employers are required to create and keep records showing the hours worked, pay rate, meal and rest breaks, and leave time earned and unused by a domestic worker to comply with the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law. The New Jersey Wage and Hour Law mandates that these records must be meticulously maintained to ensure compliance with all relevant wage and hour and wage payment laws.

Failure to maintain these records can result in an adverse inference regarding any issue for which records were not maintained. For example, if an employer fails to maintain records of a domestic worker’s meal and break times, it could be presumed that the domestic worker did not receive the legally mandated breaks.

Other rights of domestic workers

In addition to rights conferred by the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, employers should be aware that domestic workers may also be entitled to rights or protections under other employment laws. For example, domestic workers will typically be entitled to:

  • paid sick leave;

  • unemployment compensation insurance;

  • workers compensation benefits;

  • temporary disability benefits; and

  • family leave insurance benefits.

What employers of domestic workers should do to comply with the law

This law will primarily impact New Jersey residents who employ domestic workers in their homes as opposed to businesses. Employers of domestic workers must now provide written agreements outlining job duties, hourly wage, and other employment matters to ensure compliance. Additionally, employers of domestic workers need to be aware of the various employment protections established by the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to avoid penalties. As such individuals typically do not have to navigate New Jersey’s employment laws, employers of domestic workers should consult with counsel to avoid running afoul of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and New Jersey’s other numerous employment laws. In addition to liability to a domestic worker, employers of domestic workers can face penalties from the NJDOL for violations of the law. These penalties can range from $975 to $13,653.

If you have questions about your domestic workers, please schedule a complimentary consultation with us through our online scheduling system to discuss how you can avoid expensive employee problems.

Information contained in this blog is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or opinion. You should consult with an attorney about the specifics of your matter or legal issue.