Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Saturday, September 25, 2010

N.Y. Passes Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

On September 2, 2010, Gov. Paterson signed into law the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights. Daily News coverage here, The Bill Summary from the state Senate describes this new statute as follows:  

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: The Labor law is amended by adding a new article 19-C setting out labor standards for domestic workers. 

Section 696(1) of the new article 19-C would provide that a domestic worker's work day is eight hours and that overtime hours

  • as performed by agreement between the employee and employer
  • will be paid at one and a half times the worker's normal hourly rate. 

    Section 696(2) would provide for one day of rest every calendar week. The day off may be voluntarily waived by the worker, but the pay for that day would be at the overtime rate. 

    Section 696(3) would provide for the following days as paid holidays: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Labor Day and Christmas Day. Holiday days off may be voluntarily waived by the worker, but the pay for that day would be at the overtime rate. 

    Section 696(3) would also provide that full time workers (working at least forty hours per week) are entitled to at least seven paid sick days and five paid vacation days (with thirty days notice) each year. Workers working between twenty and forty hours a week are entitled to at least four paid sick days and three paid vacation days (again with thirty days notice). 

    Section 696(4) would provide for fourteen days written notice of termination. If the employer fails to give such adequate notice, the worker can receive back pay and the value of the cost of any benefits to which the employee would have been entitled. However, employers would not face any liability if 1) the employee was convicted of theft or destruction of property; or 2) if the employer acted upon a good faith and reasonable belief that the employee had committed assault, neglect or abuse in the workplace. 

    Section 697 would set out potential remedies. 697 (1) would provide that an employer who violates this article is subject to the criminal penalties set out in Labor Law sections 198-a and 663. (2) would provide for civil actions; workers can sue for the underpayment of any wages and the value of benefits as well as reasonable attorney's fees. If the violation is determined to be willful, liquidated damages of 25% of the amount owed are assessed. Also, 697(2) (b) would give the Labor commissioner or the Attorney General the ability to bring such an action on behalf of a worker. 

    Section 3 of the bill would include domestic workers and their employers under the coverage of the New York state Human Rights Law. 

    Section 4 would include domestic workers under Labor Law 

    Section 160's definition of a day's work as eight hours. 

    Section 5 would include employers who violate this article under Labor Law 

    Section 218. Labor Law 218 provides that the Labor Commissioner may issue an order to violating employers and may direct payment of wages, benefits or wage supplements; if the employer acted willfully or egregiously, or if the employer had a prior violation, the commissioner's order can include a civil penalty of double the amount due. Relatedly, 

    Section 6 would include this article under the interest and filing of an order as judgment provisions applicable to Labor Law 218. 

    Section 7 would include domestic workers under the definition of employee for purposes of the New York State minimum wage law (though domestic workers are already covered under the Federal minimum wage law).

    ection 8 would include domestic workers in the provisions of the New York State Labor Relations Act. 

    Section 9 would include employers of domestic workers under the Toxic substances article of the Labor Law. 

    Section 10 would include domestic workers (including part-time workers) and their employers in the Disability Benefits Law. Finally, section 11 of the bill would direct the Labor commissioner to report to the Legislature by 12/01/11 on the feasibility and practicality of domestic workers obtaining "common employment benefits." This would allow for the subsequent consideration of other potential benefits, including health insurance, severance pay, personal leave, collective bargaining and cost of living adjustments. 
  • Mitchell H. Rubinstein
  • Hat Tip: Workplace Prof Blog

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