What is a Domestic Worker?
A domestic worker is anyone who works in a home for a family or individual (including those compensated with government subsidies or working through an agency). Domestic workers include nannies/childcare providers, housecleaners, cooks, and directcare givers to elders and people with disabilities. If you have a question about whether a particular worker would be a considered a domestic worker, please ask your question here.
What is a Domestic Employer?
A domestic employer is a person who has a worker in their home, working full or part-time (once a week or once a month- any amount counts), cleaning, cooking or caring for members of the household. Domestic employers include those who pay out-of-pocket, employ through an agency, and those who qualify for government subsidies. If you have a question about whether you or someone you know would be a considered a domestic employer, please ask your question here.
How are Domestic Workers organizing and how will it affect me?
The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) was founded in 2007, bringing together domestic worker organizations throughout the United States to organize for rights, recognition and respect. As employers, we can expect that the efforts of these organizations will positively affect our home environments! Domestic workers who participate in determining the conditions of their work are more engaged in, and committed to their workplace. Additionally, little information is available about this very unique dynamic between domestic employer and employee, and laws like the NY Domestic Workers Bill of Rights which domestic worker organizing helped pass in 2010, will provide guidelines about how to create and sustain a positive working relationship. For FAQs specifically about the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, click here.
Why do employers want to support domestic workers rights?
Domestic workers directly support families in their personal space, and for many of employers, perform vital functions for our families to thrive. We support domestic workers rights for many reasons stemming from our self-interest and values.
• Employers often are unaware we are becoming a “boss” and we make employment decisions filled with anxiety in the isolation of our homes. Passing laws that protect domestic workers will encourage good communication between worker and employer. Having clear guidelines would mean a better work environment for domestic workers to do the important work that they do.
• There is a large spectrum of employment practices. Some employers want to do the right thing, but it shouldn’t be up to each individual employer to figure out what that means. It is important to employers that providing positive workplaces isn’t just a “nice thing” some employers do. If some employers abuse their employees, it creates an unstable workforce that negatively affects all employers’ homes.
• Some employers support domestic workers rights, because we too are workers, members of Unions, and/or in general support labor rights.
• Some employers are children of immigrants, immigrants ourselves, or supporters of immigrant rights. We know that domestic workers are primarily immigrant women of color and we support domestic workers rights as an immigrant rights issue.
• Some employers feel that domestic workers rights fall within our feminist values- we know that recognizing domestic work as real work is a part of respecting all women’s work; we know that we cannot let our work/life balance fall on the shoulders of other women; we know that women’s rights in general are at stake here. Check out this video: Women and Work: Feminists in Solidarity with Domestic Workers.
• Some employers feel that domestic workers rights fall within our faith or ethical belief systems.
What are the benefits of joining Hand in Hand?
Hand in Hand will provide many resources to you as an employer about how to build a healthy working relationship, fulfill your employer obligations like filing taxes, etc. This will include online links, downloadable materials, one-to-one and group education and support. If you have ideas about resources or support you would like to see Hand in Hand provide, or questions you need answered, please let us know what that is: contact us.
Hand in Hand will also provide opportunities to get involved on a community and political level. Hand in Hand will support you to bring your friends together to talk about these issues. Hand in Hand will also give you a chance to lend your support by being a role model for other employers and society at large about the way to build a positive working relationship between domestic workers and employers. As our network grows and solidifies, you will be updated on opportunities to stay involved, and, if you wish, contribute your personal experience to this campaign. Please provide feedback and ideas: contact us.
I am not sure if I am considered an employer or if I should join Hand in Hand, because I...
• employed a domestic worker in the past, but no longer employ-- Yes, you should join! You bring an important experience and voice to this work.
• employ a homecare worker using a government subsidy-- Yes, you should join! You are still considered a domestic employer even if you do not pay the domestic worker directly, because you are still in charge of many aspects of employment. Find out more, here.
• employ through an agency-- Yes, you should join! You are still considered a domestic employer!
• am not an employer-- Yes, you should join! Family members and friends of current employers or former employers, as well as anyone who cares about the rights of domestic workers are all welcome to join. This works depends on the broadest group of allies and supporters to help raise up the importance of domestic work!
I employ someone who is here “illegally,” won’t it be risky to participate?
First, a note on language: no human being should be considered “illegal.” Most people immigrate because they have to and unfortunately, many immigrants are forced to come here undocumented. All workers deserve to be treated fairly and with respect at their place of work, regardless of immigration status. Hand in Hand is working to ensure all individuals are provided basic labor protection - including undocumented workers. Labor laws protect ALL workers, regardless of immigration status. When the Department of Labor investigates reports of labor violations, they do not ask about a worker’s immigration status. The Department of Labor does not communicate or share information with USCIS or ICE. Many undocumented domestic workers are involved in organizing, and they feel it is safer to be organized together, than it is to remain alone and isolated. The same is true for employers and the risk for employers is much lower than for workers. In New York, where employers have been organizing since 2002, there has never been a situation where an employer has been outed or targeted for employing an un-documented worker. Hand in Hand understands the risks and makes intentional decisions about how we organize to make sure workers and employers are safe. If you’re worried about the worker you employ, it is often useful to have a conversation with them about your participation. Often, workers will ask that you do not share their name or anything about them publicly, which is absolutely fine.
I haven’t always paid the domestic workers I’ve employed on the books. Won’t it be risky to participate?
Hand in Hand provides support about how to have open and respectful conversations with domestic workers who you employ about the process of being paid on the books. That said, many domestic workers are paid off the books. For workers and employers, it is safer to be organized together, than it is to remain alone and isolated. The risk for employers is much lower than for workers. In New York, where employers have been organizing since 2002, there has never been a situation where an employer has been outed or targeted for employing an a worker off the books. Hand in Hand understands makes intentional decisions about how we organize to make sure workers and employers are safe. If you’re worried about the worker you employ, it is often useful to have a conversation with them about your participation. Often, workers will ask that you do not share their name or anything about them publicly, which is absolutely fine.
I want to support Hand in Hand but I'm not ready to participate publicly. Is that ok?
Your participation in Hand in Hand can be anonymous if you wish. When you join us you are simply stating that you want support in developing a positive working relationship with a domestic worker/s who you employ and/or that you care about the rights of domestic workers. We respect your confidentiality.
How can I “step up” my labor practices? How can I get more involved?
We recognize that you might not be able to do everything described on this website right away, but everyone can take steps in the direction of developing the caring homes and just workplaces we want. Whatever your employment practices are now, please review the resources that Hand in Hand provides and take one step up! By professionalizing these relationships, we show value for the work and help bring dignity and respect to our homes, families and the domestic workers whom we employ. Please also get involved by taking action with one of Hand in Hand's campaigns.