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New rules protect domestic workers in Oregon

Nannies, housekeepers and the families that employ them could be affected by the newly enacted Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights

BREEDLOVENannies, caregivers and those who employ them, take note: The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, which extends new protections to all sorts of household workers, is now the law of the land in Oregon.

Senate Bill 552 cleared the state Legislature last year and took affect Jan. 1, providing new protections for domestic workers and new rules governing everything from payroll taxes and benefits to paid time off and guaranteed overtime.

To get a better understanding of how the new law could impact families in Lake Oswego and across the state, The Review turned to Tom Breedlove, a director for Care.com/HomePay, a national company that specializes in helping families that employ domestic workers comply with federal and state tax rules.

Here's what Breedlove had to say:

Q: What is the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, and what protections does it extend to domestic workers?

A: The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights is a set of provisions that grants household employees a few additional benefits beyond what basic federal wage and hour law requires. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the bill into law on June 17, 2015. There are four key changes made within the law:

• It gives household employees 24 consecutive hours off each work week. If they must work on their day off, they have to be paid overtime for every hour they work that day.

• It grants employees who averaged 30 hours per week in the previous year three paid days off each year.

• It guarantees overtime for live-in household employees for all hours worked over 44 in a work week. Additionally, those workers must be given eight consecutive hours off each day and adequate sleeping arrangements.

• It protects household employees under state sexual harassment laws, as well as harassment based on gender, race, national origin, religion, disability or sexual orientation.

The law is important because it further professionalizes household employment. Working in someone’s home normally isn’t viewed as a workplace — even though the law says it can be — so there are very few laws on the books that provide benefits to household employees.

Q: What types of domestic work is covered by the new law?

A: The way the law is written, a domestic worker is generally anyone who works privately in someone’s home to care for a person or maintain the home. The law applies to all domestic workers, no matter when they were hired. That’s why it’s important families understand what’s in it, so they can make sure they’re following the rules going forward.

Q: How frequent or lengthy does the employment have to be to count? If I pay my teenage neighbor to babysit my child for a few hours every now and then, do I need to worry about payroll taxes?

A: There are certainly exceptions to every rule, and having a child under 18 babysit would be an example of someone that is not considered a domestic worker. The other common exemption from having to follow payroll and tax rules is if the employee earns less than $2,000 in a calendar year. In this case, the work is considered to be on a casual basis, so the IRS and the state don’t feel the need to burden families with tax and payroll rules in these instances.

Q: If I hire a domestic worker, what services and support am I obligated to provide for the employee, and where can I find more information?

A: The way the laws are written, there are not many things a family must do outside of the payroll and tax process to support a domestic worker. Items like health insurance, disability insurance and workers’ compensation are not required for families to purchase in Oregon. The Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights does guarantee some paid time off now for most domestic workers, but every other benefit is tied to payroll and taxes. This includes the ability to claim unemployment benefits and building credit for retirement with the Social Security Administration.

Q: How is the new law enforced? If I’m a domestic worker, where can I report a violation of my rights?

Domestic workers can file complaints with the Bureau of Labor and Industries if any part of this new law is not being followed. Since the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights is related to labor law, most enforcement will likely result from employees filing a dispute with BOLI.

Q: Is there a Q&A page anywhere? If I’m employing a domestic worker, how can I make sure I’m in compliance?

The state does not have a page set up for this specific law, but there are a couple of resources families can use:

• We have a comprehensive page of all household employment payroll, tax and labor laws that Oregon families need to follow at www.myhomepay.com/Answers/State-Nanny-Tax/OR/Overview.

• Additionally, the National Domestic Workers Alliance has a summary of the law at www.domesticworkers.org/oregon-bill-of-rights.

Contact Anthony Macuk at 503-636-1281 ext. 108 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..