Many individuals mistakenly believe that when they hire an individual to perform domestic work, they are hiring an independent contractor and only need to pay for services when rendered. However, this assumption is incorrect and can lead to costly fines and litigation. In most instances, domestic workers likely serve as employees, not independent contractors.
Failure to properly classify a domestic worker can lead to tax consequences, as employers have neglected to take FICA deductions and pay unemployment taxes. But employers can also face fines and penalties for failing to comply with various federal, state, and local laws governing the employment of domestic workers, such as worker’s compensation requirements and paid sick leave.
Recently, the Chicago City Council enacted a new ordinance to help protect domestic workers, regardless of their status as an employee or independent contractor.
As of January 1, 2022, all businesses and individuals located in the City of Chicago that employ a domestic worker must provide a written contract that sets forth (1) the domestic worker’s wages and (2) the domestic worker’s work schedule. The work schedule description should include specific start and end times during a calendar week. The contract must be provided in the worker’s primary language, upon the domestic worker’s request.
A domestic worker is defined as an individual whose primary duties include:
- House cleaning
- Home management
- Nanny services, including childcare and child monitoring
- Caregiving, personal care, or home health services for elderly persons or persons with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities who require assistance in caring for themselves
- Companion services
- Other household services to members of households or their guests in or about a private home or residence, or any other location where the domestic work is performed
Violations of this ordinance may result in a fine of $500 per offense. Violations are enforced by the City of Chicago’s Office of Labor Standards.
In addition, employers of domestic workers should be aware of the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which was enacted in 2017. This Bill of Rights applies to domestic workers who are regularly employed for at least 8 hours a week. It also applies to live-in domestic workers and those employed by an agency.
Under the Illinois Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, household employees must receive:
- An hourly pay rate of at least minimum wage
- At least 24 hours of rest in each calendar week and a 20-minute meal break for every 7 1/2 hours worked. The employee’s day of rest should, whenever possible, coincide with their religion’s traditional day of worship.
- Protections against sexual harassment
- Safeguards from being paid “an oppressive and unreasonable wage”
- Compensation at an overtime rate for all hours voluntarily worked on their usual day of rest
If you are unsure if you are in compliance with the various laws related to hiring a domestic worker, consult an experienced employment attorney for guidance.