New York regulates household employment

Beginning November 29, those who employ nannies, housekeepers and similar workers in New York will be exposed to broad new legal liabilities. If the experience of other employers proves an example, some will get sued for years’ worth of back pay, front pay and other damages over alleged discrimination in hiring, promotion, or firing, or for permitting to develop in their home what an employee experiences as a “hostile work environment.” [Empire Justice Center]


  • While the point that such regulation can be excessive is well taken, the flip side of the coin can be seen in the latest maid scandal in Saudi Arabia, where there is a large problem with the abuse (ranging from non-payment of wages and long hours to torture and murder) of Indonesian and Fillipina maids. Saudi society is much more repressive and misogynist than American society, but a significant encouragement to this abuse is the fact that household employment in Saudi Arabia falls outside the legal framework of employment law.

  • There’s actually a separate set of laws intended to govern domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. They have some of the same written protections–health insurance, contracted wages, etc.–but the rules are not enforced.

    There are movements to fix the problems, ranging from doing away with individual sponsorship of domestics to enforcing existing contracts as viewed under international human rights laws. The media, in both English and Arabic, report the atrocities and militate for reforms. The problem, as always, is who’s rice bowl is being threatened with breakage.

  • What law are you referring to? Saudi Labor law explicitly excludes migrant domestic workers from the category of “employee”. There is no minimum wage.

    This is a long-standing problem, well known in the source countries and to human rights agencies, but which has seen little improvement. Of course the employers have no incentive to change it.

  • Several years ago, the Saudis implemented new laws, separate from the general labor laws to govern domestic labor–and a separate set for Saudi women seeking to work as domestics. I’ll try to find a citation for you.

    Right now, the only thing working to establish minimum wages, though, is the sending countries. Several have demanded (and gotten) minimum wages against the threat of banning the sending of any workers. This has had the effect of sending recruiters to ‘new’ lands, like central Africa, to find workers. Those countries are so desperate for hard currency remittances that they haven’t gotten around to fixing wages or conditions.

    Right now, Indonesia is looking at a ban, as is the Philippines. Too much abuse.

  • Two things of note from the article:

    The ties between domestic work and the legacy of slavery cannot be overlooked.

    What is the “Godwin’s Law” equivalent of this type of race card?


    The new law also includes a mandate that the New York State Commissioner of Labor conduct a feasibility study on the practicality of extending collective bargaining rights to domestic workers.

    Your home can now be a union shop.

    Think of the possibilities.

  • Well, if I lived in New York and had used such help before, I would either; 1) fire them all or 2) move to a different state.

  • @Bill Poser: Sorry, got a bit ahead of the curve. A proposed law was submitted to the Saudi Shoura Council back in the spring. I haven’t heard where it went or if it’s still going.

  • I fail to see what Saudi Arabia law has to do with New York.

    And I agree with Doug–that is exactly what I would do.

  • I wondered the same thing – what in the world does Saudi law have to do with this? Answer: Nothing, it’s a diversion. This move by New York is a give-away to the SEIU. The result will be REDUCED employment for domestic workers b/c real prices will rise significantly and b/c ordinary people who aren’t versed in employment law are scared to death of becoming a target of regulators.

  • My guess is that resentment against the wealthy is the real motive for these new regulations, not any alleged desire to help the poor, exploited household workers. Oh, and pandering to the labour unions.

  • Uh, last time I checked, non-payment of wages, torture, and murder were already illegal in New York. Nice straw man, though.

    New York has just put thousands of low end domestics out of work. Liberals hate children and want them to starve.

  • Just as fair housing laws basically wiped out the renting of rooms in private residences, this will wipe out household employment.

  • I wonder if an LLC or something like that could shield a homeowner from risk. Or, just hire from an agency who has to bear all the risk.