New Jersey Is A Step Closer to Protecting Domestic Workers

NJ Minimum Wage Increases Continue
November 16, 2021
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By: Jennifer Weitz, Esq. and Ty Hyderally, Esq.

The New Jersey Legislature recently introduced a bill to create the “New Jersey Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act.” Introduced on November 8, 2021, Senate bill 4044 would create various rights and employment protections for New Jersey’s 50,000 domestic workers, and establish penalties for violations of its provisions.

The bill defines “domestic workers” as hourly and salaried employees; independent contractors; full-time and part-time workers and temporary workers; and anyone who works in an employer’s residence in order to care for a child, serve as a companion or caretaker for a sick, convalescing, or elderly person or a person with a disability; or who provides any of the following: housekeeping or house cleaning, cooking, food or butler service, parking cars, cleaning laundry, gardening, personal organizing, or any other domestic service. Excluded from the definition are individuals primarily engaged in house sitting, pet sitting, or dog walking; anyone operating a business out of a home, such as a home daycare business; and anyone whose primary work involves home repair or maintenance.

Domestic workers

The bill would modify both the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law, by removing the exclusion of the domestic worker from both statutes.  It would also create the Domestic Workers Standards and Implementation Board to monitor and review implementation of the bill and make policy recommendations regarding additional measures to be taken. Specifically, the bill would:

  • Establish contracts between an employer and a domestic worker, documenting work hours, wages, and duties
  • Provide a two-week termination policy, to ensure domestic workers are not fired without adequate notice
  • Protect against threatening workers for their immigration status
  • Prohibit retaliation by an employer when a worker asserts their rights
  • Provide privacy and anti-trafficking protections
  • Require rest periods and meal breaks after working a certain number of consecutive hours
  • Specify that a worker is not required to work more than six days for the same employer without a rest period

The bill seeks to close gaps in New Jersey’s labor laws that have left domestic workers vulnerable. According to a 2020 Rutgers report, 57% of domestic workers surveyed reported wage theft, 18% reported schedules changing week to week, 49% lacked paid vacation and sick days, and 90% do not have a written contract to protect them. Currently, domestic workers in New Jersey are entitled to the minimum wage, overtime, and regular wage payments, but do not have anything close to the protections included in the bill.

If enacted, the bill would allow New Jersey to join ten other states in providing statutory protections to domestic workers. New York, Illinois, Oregon, California, Nevada, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Virginia have passed bills of rights for domestic workers, as have the cities of Seattle and Philadelphia. As well, nationally, this past summer saw the reintroduction of the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which would protect domestic workers against harassment, establish written agreements, and ensure paid sick leave and the right to meal and rest breaks.

The coronavirus pandemic spotlighted how much we rely on domestic workers, whose jobs are truly essential and cannot be conducted remotely. Given this newfound recognition of (and appreciation for) this sector of the labor market, the bill will hopefully be on the governor’s desk and signed into law without delay.

En nuestra firma hablamos español. This blog is for informational purposes only.  It does not constitute legal advice, and may not reasonably be relied upon as such.  If you face a legal issue, you should consult a qualified attorney for independent legal advice with regard to your particular set of facts.  This blog may constitute attorney advertising.  This blog is not intended to communicate with anyone in a state or other jurisdiction where such a blog may fail to comply with all laws and ethical rules of that state of jurisdiction.

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