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New Protections for Domestic Workers Equal New Litigation Opportunities

A new law in Illinois, billed as the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act (the "Act"), will apply several federal and state laws to previously unprotected domestic workers. The law, which will go into effect January 1, 2017, grants nannies, housekeepers, home healthcare workers, and chauffeurs new employment protections and affords new avenues for claims to be made against their employers. Employers of domestic workers are often single households or families who hire help for their children and housecleaning, and who are ill equipped to handle employment litigation compared to the average business.

The new Act amends several State of Illinois and federal laws to apply to domestic workers, who had been specifically excluded from the protections of those laws in the past. The Act applies to workers regularly employed at least 8 hours a week in domestic jobs, this excludes occasional babysitters.

Among its provisions, the Act amends the Illinois Minimum Wage Law to include domestic workers, affording those workers a higher minimum wage than is mandated by federal law. The Act also specifically added domestic workers to the Illinois One Day Rest in Seven Act which requires meal breaks for certain workers, and permits domestic workers to only work six out of every seven days. (The worker can voluntarily elect to work seven days a week but they must be paid 1.5X on that seventh day). The Wages of Women and Minors Act is also amended by the new law to specifically include women and minors in domestic service jobs. Finally, the Act strikes the specific exclusion of domestic workers from the protections of the Illinois Human Rights Act. This affords domestic workers protections from sexual harassment from which they were previously excluded. Most domestic workers were previously covered by federal minimum wage and overtime laws.

Many employers, especially the average family/household, may not be aware that the domestic worker(s) they employ are covered by the overtime and recordkeeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act in addition to the new protections advanced by the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act. All employers, including families and households with domestic help, should contact qualified employment counsel to clarify their responsibilities under federal and state law, lest they leave themselves open to liability.

Illinois joins New York, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Connecticut with similar laws for domestic workers.

To stay on top of the latest developments in employment law and to receive low-cost guidance on the applicability of employment and labor law to your business or family, join Wessels Sherman's Phone Client Program. Call attorney Tyler J. Bohman at 312-629-9300 or send him an email at tybohman@wesselssherman.com for guidance on all your employment issues and for more information about the Phone Client Program.

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