Guide to Employing Nannies or Other Domestic Workers

By Assaf Lichtash

Thousands of households in California employ nannies or other domestic workers, such as housekeepers, cooks, maids, gardeners, companions, au pairs, home health aides, personal attendants, and more. Domestic workers may live outside or within the home in which they are employed. As of 1974, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was amended to regulate domestic work, starting a new trend of both federal and state employment regulations related to this type of work. If you currently or are planning to employ any type of domestic worker, always make sure you are in compliance with the laws to avoid legal problems. The following is a brief guide for employers of domestic worker in California.

Written Employment Contracts

Under most circumstances, the law does not require you to have a written employment contract with a domestic worker. However, it is always a good idea to do so to protect yourself from liability should the employment relationship break down. An employee may file a lawsuit alleging that you promised more pay, hours off, or other benefits, and a signed written contract is concrete evidence of your agreement with your domestic worker.

Minimum Wage

All domestic workers are entitled to receive minimum wage under both federal and state laws, with the sole exception of babysitters under 18 years of age. As of July 1, 2014, the minimum wage in California is $9.00 per hour. On January 1, 2016, the state minimum wage will increase to $10.00 per hour. Note that some cities in California have instituted a higher minimum wage. For example, if you live in San Francisco, you must pay at least $10.55 per hour. Always check the laws in your city to make sure you are in compliance.

Overtime Pay

Domestic workers are entitled to overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular hourly pay. Overtime rates must be paid for the following hours worked:

Work over 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week;
Work on the 7th consecutive day—first 8 hours of work is 1.5x regular pay and any additional hours on the 7th day requires 2x regular pay; and
2x regular pay for work over 12 hours per day.

There are also additional guidelines for certain types of domestic workers, such as personal attendants or live-in workers.

Meal and Rest Breaks

Domestic workers (with the exception of personal attendants) have the legal right to the following unpaid meal breaks and paid rest breaks:

30-minute meal break after 5 hours of work;
Additional 30 minute meal break after 10 hours of work;
10-minute rest break during a shift of 3.5 to 6 hours;
20 minutes of total rest breaks for shifts of 6 to 10 hours; and
30 minutes of total rest breaks for shifts of 10 to 14 hours.

Some of these meal and rest breaks may be waived or otherwise agreed upon in a written employment agreement.

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