Illinois Passes Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act

As Summer nears its close, we celebrate another advancement for Illinois employees.  Notably, on August 12, 2016, Illinois passed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act.  This new law gives employment rights to nannies, housekeepers, caretakers, and other domestic workers.  This Act comes just weeks after Illinois adopted the Child Bereavement Leave Act.  Hence, our home State continues its positive trend toward expanding employee rights.

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act takes effect on January 1, 2017.  The Act provides key state law protections to “domestic workers.”  Historically, these workers were excluded from the same protections provided to workers in other industries.

The Workers Covered by the New Law

The Act protects those who perform any of the following domestic work:

  • Housekeeping;
  • House cleaning;
  • Home management;
  • Nanny services;
  • Caregiving;
  • Laundering;
  • Cooking;
  • Companion services;
  • Chauffeuring; or
  • Other household services for members of households or their guests.

The New Law’s Protections

The Act amends four important Illinois laws to provide domestic workers with employment rights.

(1)  Illinois Human Rights Act 

First, the Act amends the Illinois Human Rights Act.  As a result, domestic workers will receive protections against discrimination and retaliation. This includes protecting domestic workers from sexual harassment and discrimination based on age, race, sex, national origin, pregnancy, religion, ancestry, marital status, sexual orientation, and disability.

(2)  Minimum Wage Law

Second, the Act amends the Minimum Wage Law.  Thus, domestic workers will receive the same wage safeguards as other Illinois employees.  This includes the guarantee of a minimum wage of $8.25 per hour for workers 18 years old and older.  Additionally, this includes protection against retaliation for reporting unlawful wage practices.

(3)  The Wages of Women and Minors Act

Third, the Act amends The Wages of Women and Minors Act.  This statute prohibits employers from paying women and minors “an oppressive and unreasonable wage.”  Women and minors who suffer such violations can sue in court to recover the difference in wages owed as well as attorneys’ fees and costs.  Now, those women and minors will importantly include domestic workers.

(4)  One Day Rest In Seven Act

Fourth, the Act amends the One Day Rest in Seven Act.  Consequently, domestic workers will have the right to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest every week.  In addition, they will have the right to a 20 minute meal period for every 7.5 hour shift.

Moreover, with this amendment, if domestic workers agree to work on their day of rest, they are required to receive overtime pay.  Finally, the new law specifies that the rest day should coincide, if possible, to any day that the domestic worker reserves for religious worship. As such, domestic workers will have the same basic qualities of work as other traditionally-protected employees.

The New Law’s Limitations

Yet, like any law, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act has certain limitations.

Domestic workers who seek the protections of the above laws need to ensure that they meet any other eligibility requirements that may exist.  For example, the employer must qualify for coverage for these protections to apply.  And, eligibility determinations are tricky.  For that reason, it is best to consult with an attorney.

Further, while the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act protects many individuals, certain workers are excluded from its reach.  Specifically:

  • Those who are the employer’s parent, spouse, child, or other immediate family member (with some exceptions)
  • Child and day care home providers participating in specified child assistance programs under the Illinois Public Aid Code
  • Those who provide 8 hours or less of domestic work in a workweek on a regular basis
  • Those who are (a) free from control or direction in their work; (b) engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession, or business; or (c) sole proprietors or partnerships

Progress Nonetheless

Above all, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act is major legislative progress.  Especially relevant, the Act’s anti-discrimination and wage protections serve as a great step toward finally granting domestic workers the respect they deserve and recognizing these key members of our society as equals in the eyes of the law.