Who is a domestic worker?
A domestic worker is paid to perform household tasks and works more than 8 hours in a week on a regular basis. The work is done in private homes.
Domestic work includes:
- Grocery shopping
- Nannying or child care
- Personal care or home health service for the elderly and disabled
- Companion care
- Home personal aides or home health aids
I am a domestic worker. Am I an employee?
It depends on how much control you have over your work. You are not an employee if you do most of the following:
- Decide how you will do your work;
- Set your hours;
- Make profits;
- Work from your own home;
- Provide the supplies for your work; and
- Offer to serve the general public.
Can my boss abuse me?
No. Your boss cannot abuse you. Abuse can be any of the following:
- Forced physical contact
- Forced sexual contact
Abuse is a crime. You should report it to the police.
Can my boss discriminate against me?
If your employer has 15 or more employees, you are protected from discrimination based on a physical or mental disability and pregnancy. You are also protected from sexual harassment, regardless of how many employees your boss has.
However, depending on the county where you work, you may be protected against discrimination and harassment. For example, if you work in Cook County, your boss cannot discriminate against you or sexually harass you. If you believe you have been the subject of illegal discrimination or harassment and you work in Cook County, contact the Cook County Commission on Human Rights. You may also contact the Chicago Commission on Human Relations if you work in Chicago. If you work in another county or municipality, contact your county to find out about its laws regarding discrimination and harassment.
What is the minimum wage for domestic workers?
In Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. Originally, you could only be given the state minimum wage if your boss had 4 or more workers. Now, a single domestic worker is considered an employee for the purposes of state minimum wage laws.
If you work in Chicago, the minimum wage is $10.50 per hour.
Live-in workers (who reside at the job site permanently or for at least 4 consecutive nights and 5 consecutive days) must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked. Live-in workers do not need to be paid for time spent sleeping, eating, or for personal entertainment if they are completely free from all duties. However, they must be paid for these time periods if they are interrupted to perform work. Minimum wage may not apply if:
- You are on duty for 24 hours or more;
- You agreed to not include meal periods;
- You agreed to not include sleeping periods of 8 hours or less;
- Your boss gives you an area to sleep in and you can sleep without being bothered; or
- You primarily provide companionship.
Am I a live-in worker if I work 24 hours shifts?
It depends. To be a live-in worker (and not entitled to overtime), you must live at the home all the time or at least 5 days a week (sleeping 4 consecutive nights on the premises). If your job lasts for only a few weeks, you are not a live-in worker.
What are work hours?
Work hours are time spent working or waiting for work. If you are in the home but are not working, that time is usually not considered work hours.
Can I get paid for travel time?
Yes. You must be paid for running errands and traveling with your boss. You do not have to be paid for normal travel time to and from work. If you work for an agency, you must be paid for time spent traveling between job sites.
Can I get paid for overtime?
It depends. If you do not live at your job site, you must be paid time and a half after working 40 hours per week. If you live at your job site, you are not entitled to overtime.
Regardless of whether you live at your job site, you’re entitled to one day off during the calendar week. If you choose to work on that day, you’re entitled to an overtime rate for every hour you work that day.
Taking breaks at work
If you work at least 7 and a half hours in one day, your employer must provide a 20 minute paid meal break. This break should be no later than 5 hours into your shift. The meal period can be unpaid if you are relieved from all duties and lasts for more than 20 minutes.
For certain types of jobs, such as if you monitor individuals with disabilities and are required to be on-call, your employer only needs to allow you to eat a meal during your shift while continuing to monitor those individuals.
Taking time off from work
If your total work hours per week are more than 20, by law, you are entitled to 24 consecutive hours of rest in a calendar week. This means you if work 6 days in a week, you are allowed by law to take the 7th day off. If your religion has a weekly day of rest, your weekly day off should coincide with that day of rest, whenever possible.
You are not required to take a weekly day off. If you choose to work, your employer must pay you overtime for that day.
How often must I be paid?
You must be paid at least twice per month. The payments should come no later than 13 days after the pay period. When you are hired, your boss must tell you how you will be paid.
Can my boss take money from my paycheck?
Your boss can take out the following from your wages:
- Food and housing, but only if you’ve agreed to it and your boss tells you the amount in advance
- Social Security
- Medicare taxes
- Income taxes
What cannot be deducted from my wages?
The following items cannot be deducted from your wages:
- Safety equipment
- Work tools
- Any employer-owned equipment
- The employer’s share of insurance premiums
- Broken or spoiled items owned by your employer
Can I pay into social security?
Yes. You can pay into social security. Minors can pay into social security if domestic work is their main job. If your boss pays you at least $2,000, they must deduct Social Security and Medicare taxes from your wages.
Does my employer have to provide me with health insurance?
No, household employers do not have to provide health insurance.
Can I get workers’ compensation?
Yes. If you are injured on the job, you can get workers' compensation if:
You work at least 40 hours per week for at least 13 weeks in a year; or
Your boss has 2 employees who work a total of at least 40 hours per week.
Employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance and cannot charge you for any portion of the insurance premium. Employers are also prohibited from firing or retaliating against employees who are injured on the job.
If you are injured at work, you should notify your employer immediately. For more information about workers’ compensation or to file a claim, contact the Illinois Industrial Commission.
Unemployment compensation for domestic workers
You may get unemployment compensation if you quit for a good cause or are fired (unless you are discharged for misconduct in connection to the work or for a felony or theft in connection to your work).
To qualify, you must have:
- Earned at least $1600 during a recent 12 month period;
- Earned at least $440 outside of the 12 month period
Contact the Illinois Department of Employment Services for more information at (800) 244-5631.
Paying taxes on domestic wages
Single people who earn at least $10,300 per year ($11,850 if over age 65) must pay income taxes. Married couples who earn at least $20,600 per year must pay income taxes ($21,850 if one spouse is over age 65; $23,100 if both spouses are over age 65). Your boss does not have to withhold taxes. You can agree with your boss to do so. If you do not withhold taxes, you may owe money when you file your tax returns.