Domestic Employees in Overtime

Stronger enforcement of wage and hour laws is increasing the complexity and potential penalties for families with household employees.
Starting in January of 2014, for example, California will require overtime pay for broad categories of domestic employees who work more than nine hours a day and 45 hours per week. The legislation applies to workers such as housekeepers, maids, childcare providers, and caregivers for the elderly, sick or recuperating.

The Department of Labor restricts the ability of employers to follow the common practice of paying domestic workers a salary. Instead, the agency is requiring family employers to track hourly wages and to pay overtime. As a result, family employers will have to pay careful attention to when, and for how long, workers are performing their duties. Schedules, work practices and family routines may have to be adjusted to ensure compliance with evolving laws.

In addition to regulatory scrutiny and potential fines, family employers can be subject to unfavorable publicity if they have a high profile and a worker files a wage-and-hour complaint or lawsuit.

To help increase compliance with wage and hour laws, family employers should:

  • Understand the laws and record-keeping requirements not only in your state of residence, but every state in which they have a house. If a worker travels with the family, he or she will be covered by the laws in the jurisdiction where services are being provided.
  • Consider using a telephone-based timesheet service or mobile app to automate and simplify the tracking and reporting of clock-ins, clock-outs and breaks.

The Department of Labor provides guidance for employers on wage and hour and other workplace regulatory requirements. Given the complexity of the law and the potential for fines, it is strongly advised that those with household employees seek legal advice from employment law experts.