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Video: Connecticut Domestic Employer Responsibilities

Do you live in Connecticut and employ a nanny, house cleaner, or home attendant?

If so, watch the video below to learn about your responsibilities as an employer and the laws that protect domestic workers in your home.


View Full Transcript Below:

Hi, welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time today to learn about Connecticut’s domestic worker protections, the policies that are in place in Connecticut right now, and to really understand what it means when your home is someone’s workplace. Today we’re going to talk about what it means to employ someone in your home. To understand the history of the United States labor policy and specifically its exclusion of domestic workers. And we’re going to talk about Connecticut’s domestic worker protections and their impact on your household. It can be really helpful when we’re thinking about how to be respectful employers, to ground our approach in our own experiences as employees in our workplaces, and what has really made us feel valued. I’d love for you to take a moment right now to do just a moment of reflection and think about what makes you feel good at work.

Maybe it’s having really great communication with the people that you work with, or maybe it’s related to compensation. It could also be great benefits, good healthcare, paid time off. All of these things make us feel the value that we bring to our roles. A lot of times the relationships that we have with the people who work in our homes are really intimate, and that’s a great thing. It can feel very different from our other “work relationships.” But no matter how much you might care for the person who works in your home, it’s also really critical to remember that when you’re paying for a service in your home or you’re hiring someone to do work for you, in fact, you are their employer and that means your home is a workplace.

It might feel like the person who works for you is part of the family, but at the same time they’re an employee and that’s sort of complicated. So that’s why I’m here today to share with you some of the legal and required implications of that, and then also, how we can really make our homes excellent places to work, to start to unpack some of those complicated feelings.

I want to talk just briefly about the history of domestic work in the United States and why some of the feelings we may have about like the professionalism of domestic work have arisen. Understanding domestic work as professional and deserving of rights that are memorialized in policy is really a very new thing in the US. Domestic workers and agricultural workers were excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act in the 1930s. That was in order to gain support from southern legislators and pass them through Congress. So that meant really intentionally leaving certain people out of the law. It’s no coincidence that domestic workers and agricultural workers were predominantly black people. Many living in the South. What we’re doing right now to pass policies that protect domestic workers is absolutely part of the legacy of slavery in the United States and undoing some of the really bad policy that was passed in the wake of slavery in the Jim Crow era. The Fair Labor Standards Act guaranteed basic rights to nearly all workers that included things like the 40-hour work week overtime and minimum wage.

Something you might not know is that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which effectively ended workplace discrimination in many cases, only applies to workplaces with more than 15 employees. And the first domestic worker Bill of Rights was passed in 2010 in New York State. Since then, 10 states and two cities have passed bills of rights. Three cities, actually. Washington DC just passed their bill in 2022, just in December of 2022, so that’s the third city. There’s also been a National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights introduced, and that policy was introduced twice. It will be introduced again that that’s kind of a longer fight to ensure that all domestic workers in the United States, that’s about 2 million workers, would benefit from policy protections. Of course, 2010 is not a very long time ago, and the long history of oppression in the United States is the reason that we continue to fight for some pretty basic rights for domestic workers today.

Now it’s time to talk about some of the policies that have been passed in Connecticut that protect domestic workers. I want to really mention the work of community-based organizations across the state as well as great champions in the state legislature that have helped us in incredible progress for domestic worker protections. I’ll name four organizations that [inaudible 00:05:07] has worked closely with in Connecticut. Those are Unidad Latina en Accion, Connecticut Worker Center, The Nagatuck Valley Project, and Comunidades Sin Fronteras and their organizing has made possible the wins that we’ve seen alongside the support of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Over 30,000 domestic workers in Connecticut are benefiting from these protections, and it’s really important that we make sure that employers are aware of and implementing these policies in order to really ensure their success. As we talk about each of the policy points, you may have questions, and you’ll see my personal information at the end of this recording so you can reach out to me if you have any questions.

It’s really important to begin by being clear about who is covered in these policies and who is not covered. It’s important to note that only casual babysitters and home attendance in state funded programs are the domestic workers who are not covered by this policy. So domestic workers are people who are house cleaners, who are nannies, who are home attendants that aren’t covered by a collective agreement like a union bargaining agreement, and that employers are someone who hire directly or indirectly.

So if you hire someone through an agency, for example, the agency is an employer and you are also an employer, you would share joint liability even if you hire someone through an agency. There’s six critical protections for domestic workers that will talk about today. And we’ll start with minimum wage, overtime pay, and meal periods. Employers are required to pay minimum wage to all domestic workers. That’s $14 per hour and increasing to $15 per hour in June of 2023. Employers are also required to pay overtime wages for any hours worked over 40 at one and a half times the regular rate of pay. Employees are entitled to a 30-minute meal period during a seven and a half hour shift, and it should be taken in the middle of that shift. Employers are not required to pay for this rest time.

Next, we’ll talk about paid leave. Employees in Connecticut, pay 0.5% of their income into the paid family and medical leave insurance pool. Then they can collect up to 12 weeks in income replacement benefits. Similar for independent contractors and any employer with more than 50 home care employees must provide 40 hours of paid sick time annually. That would apply to agencies who employ home care workers. Under Connecticut State law, employers are required to pay workers’ compensation for a workplace accident or illness if the employee works a minimum of 26 hours weekly. Further, employers are required to make unemployment contributions if the employee was paid at least a thousand dollars in a three-month period during the current or previous year. Worker’s compensation can be a rider on a home insurance policy. So that’s something to look into if you’re not aware whether the person who works for you is protected in that way now.

Protection from discrimination and retaliation. Domestic workers are protected against discrimination based on the protected classes that you may already know, like race, religion, gender identity, pregnancy related protections, including reasonable leave for a disability resulting from a pregnancy. And lastly, domestic workers are protected against sexual harassment and assault. And employers are also prohibited from retaliation. So that’s related to an employee who makes a complaint to their employer, an employee who files a complaint with a Department of Labor, an employee who testifies, has testified, or will testify in support of or against a certain policy or exercising their own rights.

We’ll move on to the notice of rights. This is the final section of policy that I’m going to go over in detail. The employer is required to advise employees, in writing, at the time of their hire about these five items, the pay rate, work hours and schedules, job duties and responsibilities, availability and accrual of paid time off, fees for board or lodging, and then other rights provided by policies about and including how to file a complaint. And you’ll see example notice of rights and contracts on Hand In Hand’s website, domesticemployers.org.

I’m going to move on now to talk about the Fair Care Pledge. The Fair Care Pledge goes beyond what policy says. Frequently in Hand In Hand, we talk about policies that protect domestic worker as sort of the floor, right? This is the absolute least thing you can do to protect workers in your home, and we hope that we’ll see a more robust policy that protects domestic workers even more. That’s memorialized in legislation. But for now, while we’re waiting for additional policy, we talk about the Fair Care Pledge. So what is the Fair Care Pledge? It’s a way for individuals and families to affirm that we’re really going to do our best to be fair and respectful employers when we hire someone to work in our homes.

It’s really important for us to think about and reflect now on what we said and made us feel really valued at work. And we’re going to talk about how that might apply in your home as a workplace. First, having a commitment to fair employment is absolutely key. We know at Hand In Hand that there’s limited policy advice for homes that are workplaces. So understanding really deeply what fair employment means is tricky sometimes. So making sure that you are committed to fair employment is critical. Make sure that you’re following the law. That’s a really key piece of this. Know what the laws are. Stay apprised of the laws as they change and appreciate the unique challenges of this moment. We continue to be moving through the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation is really high, people are struggling. So you know, something you can think about is how your employer has made accommodations for you or your workplace, and think about how you can make accommodations and support the person who works in your home as well.

Protect workers. This is related to clear communication and making sure that you’re supporting the person who works in your home by talking with them about things that might change. The first, communicate clearly if changes are being made. If you need to cancel last minute, make sure that you pay your worker. Don’t expose your worker to coronavirus. If you’ve been exposed to COVID, make sure you cancel and pay them for the time and develop a work agreement that includes contingencies for future moments of crisis.

We don’t know what those might be, but we do expect for contingencies to be something that we planned for ahead, especially after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We realized at Hand In Hand that most people hadn’t had a contingency plan. So having one now for something that might happen in the future is a great way to help protect your worker and make sure that they can remain employed. Whether you’re in a crisis moment or not, it’s really important to make sure you’re having things like regular check-ins, communicating differences around expectation or work duties, providing helpful feedback and making sure that you’re paying for any training or check-in time that happens, making sure those aren’t happening while the person who works in your home is currently working. Set aside some separate time.

And then lastly, pledge to pay. Paid time off is an incredibly valuable asset for domestic workers. It’s one of their top priorities and it applies differently to different people. Everyone values paid time off. So let’s think about how that works. Almost no domestic workers have paid time off. Least of all, people who might be house cleaners or gardeners frequently called the original gig workers. If a house cleaner, for example, is injured on the job and can’t work, they just simply lose their pay. If they need to care for a sick child, same situation. So thinking about how you’re providing paid time off is really essential in the best of times and really extra critical right now. If someone who depends on you for income is not earning their regular pay, they may be facing really serious economic difficulty. So we want to make sure that you’re thinking about how you’re providing paid time off, even if the person who works for you only works for you a couple of hours every few weeks.

So we really invite you to think deeply about what your situation is and how you can provide paid time off to people regardless of how many hours they work in your home. So we really invite you to make sure that you pay people their full wages if they have contracted coronavirus or if they are asked not to work because of an exposure. And then thinking about how you’re memorializing paid time off in a work agreement or a notice of rights that you’re required to provide to the person who works in your home. And one of the reasons that we stress those so strongly, is because so many domestic workers are people of color, immigrants.

They frequently lack access to the social safety nets that we might be able to take advantage of, which makes them even more vulnerable at particularly difficult moments. There are so many different ways to support the needs of immigrants and domestic workers, whether that’s through paid time off that you’re paying to one person or helping support organizations that advance their rights in other ways. So what now? You can be part of our National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, and we have lots of petitions and different kinds of pledges that you can find online on our website, domesticemployers.org. You can bring this workshop to a community that you’re part of and I can help answer some very specific questions. We could have a workshop to write contracts or notice of rights together, and you can join the Connecticut network as a member of Hand In Hand, and you can join as a dues paying member at our website, domesticemployers.org.

Meanwhile, if you have questions about this presentation or there’s anything that I can support, you can reach out to me. Erica, I’m just at erica@domesticemployers.org. There’s our website one more time, and I hope that you’ve really learned something today and that you’re taking away a deeper understanding of your home as a workplace and how you can support the people who work there. Thank you.

Check out https://domesticemployers.org/connecticut-resources/ for more resources!

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