The New York City Commission on Human Rights is a resource to help workers and employers understand their rights and obligations under the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL). This article provides information regarding new workplace protections. Starting March 12, 2022, the NYCHRL will protect domestic workers in New York City from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. It will also entitle them to reasonable accommodations.
“March of 2022 ushers in an important expansion of the NYC Human Rights Law when Intro 339-B takes effect,” said Annabel Palma, Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Commission on Human Rights. “Domestic workers, such as caregivers, nannies, and housekeepers, are essential to New Yorker’s ability to thrive, and care work is a vital piece of the city’s infrastructure. Our campaign aims to educate domestic workers on their rights and protections, and to ensure employers understand their obligations.”
There are roughly 300,000 people in New York employed as domestic workers. Domestic workers are uniquely vulnerable to wage theft, abuse, and discrimination, and have been historically excluded from national and state-level labor and anti-discrimination laws. Domestic workers are disproportionately women of color and immigrants, often with caregiving responsibilities of their own and have had little to no recourse when facing discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
The expansion of the law prohibits discrimination in hiring based on membership in a protected class such as age, race, gender, and religion, among others; prohibits inquiries into salary and credit histories; and provides for reasonable accommodation for employees on the basis of religion and disability, as well as accommodations for pregnancy, breastfeeding, and lactation-related needs. To comply with the human rights law, employers must provide employee with notice of their rights. Employees whose rights have been violated can file a claim with the Commission or another venue of their choosing. There are some workers who are not covered by the expansion of the law, including workers related to an employer and those who work on a casual, irregular basis.
Who is a domestic worker with rights under the law?
The NYCHRL’s protections will apply to all domestic workers who perform work in New York City.
• Domestic workers include nannies, home care workers, housecleaners, or any worker who is employed in a home providing childcare, eldercare, companionship, or housekeeping services. Most fulltime and part-time workers are covered.
• Exceptions: The law does not cover those working only occasionally. It also excludes workers who are related to the employer or to the person receiving care, and workers who provide companionship services and are simultaneously employed by an outside agency. Who is an employer with obligations under the law? Anyone who employs a domestic worker in New York City, other than on a casual or irregular basis. This includes individual employers as well as companies. Employment agencies and people who help workers find jobs are also covered by the NYCHRL.
• Note: A person who employs or places even one domestic worker has obligations under the NYCHRL.
What rights and obligations are in the new law?
1. Domestic workers have the right to be free from discrimination.
• Employers cannot discriminate against domestic workers based on their actual or perceived gender, national origin, race, immigration status, religion, or any other category protected by the NYCHRL. That means that employers cannot fire or refuse to hire a domestic worker, pay them less, harass them or allow them to be harassed, or otherwise treat them less well because of their membership in a protected class. • For more information about employment discrimination protections and protected classes under the NYCHRL, view the Commission’s website.
2. Domestic workers have the right to reasonable accommodations, or changes to their schedule or job duties to enable them to perform the essential functions of their job.
• Employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations for needs related to disability, pregnancy or related medical conditions, childbirth, lactation, religious practices or observances, and status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual violence, or stalking.
• If an employer is aware that an employee may need a reasonable accommodation, they must engage in a cooperative dialogue, or good faith discussion, with the employee to understand their needs and discuss potential accommodations.
3. When hiring, employers cannot ask domestic workers questions about their salary history, inquire into their credit history, or ask them to take a pre-hire drug test to detect marijuana/THC.
4. Domestic workers have the right to written notice about sexual harassment protections, and to training regarding sexual harassment protections.
• Once a domestic worker is hired, their employer must provide them with written notice of their rights regarding sexual harassment, post a notice in English and Spanish regarding sexual harassment protections, and ensure that they receive annual training on the NYCHRL’s protections against gender-based harassment.
5. Domestic workers have the right to be free from retaliation for opposing discrimination, requesting a reasonable accommodation (see #2), or filing a NYCHRL claim.
Do domestic workers in New York have rights under other laws?
Yes. Domestic workers have the right to paid safe and sick leave, minimum wage and overtime pay, one (1) day of rest per week, and at least three (3) paid days off per year. Fulltime domestic workers also have the right to workers’ compensation and disability benefits insurance, and some domestic workers are entitled to paid family leave.