4 Ways Employers Illegally Short Domestic Caregivers of Fair Pay - Aiman-Smith & Marcy
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4 Ways Employers Illegally Short Domestic Caregivers of Fair Pay

Domestic caregivers are one of the most overlooked and underpaid workforces in the nation. They are often paid whatever the family feels they can afford or the care is “worth” without consideration for providing their caregivers with fair pay or even a living wage. The mentality is that caregivers are “part of the family”, even when they are not, and that their care is obligatory instead of a compensatory service.

Because of this, employers of domestic caregivers often find ways around fair pay – often without even realizing they are doing this. Domestic caregivers who feel close to their employers may let these transgressions slide or not even realize they are being shorted until it’s too late.

In California, domestic caregivers have fair pay rights that are clearly outlined. Today, we’re spotlighting four common ways that employers often short their caregivers of fair pay so caregivers can protect themselves and employers can correct these all-too-normalized pay mistakes.


1) Treating Overtime as Unpaid Obligation

Domestic caregivers in California have a right to overtime any day that extends over 9 hours of work. However, caregiving in the home often goes overtime, especially if you are the only caregiver or the next caregiver is late to their shift. Clients may ask their caregivers to stay late to provide a little extra help or stay over until the next caregiver arrives, and this time is considered a “favor” or obligation between friends. Often, this time isn’t even clocked and the caregiver is only paid for the pre-agreed hours. This is a clear violation of fair labor laws, as time on the clock must be time paid.


2) Overlooking the Overtime 1.5 Pay Rate

The extra time caregivers provide between shifts or on request must also be paid as overtime after 9 hours of work. Legal overtime is paid at the 1.5 rate, meaning $10 an hour becomes $15 for every overtime hour as a clear example. However, even if clients pay for extra hours, they often forget  (or sometimes even deliberately overlook) the overtime rate for this extra time. This results in domestic caregivers being shorted for working more than 9 hours a day or more than 40 hours a week.


3) Deducting Meals from Pay Without Prior Agreement

Domestic caregivers can negotiate room and board (lodgings and food) as part of their pay, but deductions for room and board are only legal if contractually agreed on beforehand. If meals or lodging are not agreed and signed as part of pay, they are legally separate from fair pay for caregiver hours worked.

Clients cannot begin to deduct a shared lunch from their caregiver’s pay if there is no contractual agreement. This protects caregivers from sudden reductions in pay after sharing a friendly meal with the family or taking part in a meal they have prepared. If clients want to start deducting meals or provide a lodging situation, they must first officially renegotiate the caregiver’s employment and pay contract.


4) Over-Charging for Room and Board Compensation

In contracts that include room and board for domestic caregiving, employers often seek to minimize their costs by over-charging the value of these provisions. For this reason, California has established a legal limit to the value of each week of boarding and each meal deducted from a caregiver’s pay.

As of January 2020, employers with fewer than 25 domestic employees cannot charge more than

  • Lodgings:
    • $56.43 per week for a private room
    • $46.58 per week for a shared room
    • $677.75 per week for a private apartment
      • Couples who are both domestically employed and share an apartment share this rent, it does not double.
  • Meals
    • $4.34 per breakfast
    • $5.97 per lunch
    • $8.01 per dinner

These values are absolute and “add-on” contracts (ex: charging to rent the washing machine or having a beverage with lunch) are not permitted.


Are you a domestic caregiver being denied fair compensation for your work? We can help. Here at Aiman-Smith and Marcy, we specialize in legal solutions to fair pay and workers rights violations. Contact us for a no-obligation consultation on how to make your situation right and ensure domestic caregiving is paid fairly for everyone involved. We look forward to working with you.