California is not like all states when it comes to the legal framework for domestic caregivers. This is a good thing! California law is working hard to ensure that domestic care workers rights are protected as they serve their clients. If you are such a worker, what does that look like for you?
My employer is deducting money from my salary for room and board. Is that legal?
Yes. If you are receiving room and lodging from your employer while working for them, then this is legal. This can make your minimum wage income seem smaller as a result. However, your employer is only allowed to deduct up to a certain amount of money for each meal—which should be relatively cheap!
If you are being charged $8 or more for a meal, that is not within the reasonable amount. If you think that your employer is charging too much for room and board, or deducting for meals that you have not actually eaten, then the legality of that behavior is questionable.
My employer is suddenly reducing my hourly salary so that they can afford to pay me overtime. Is that legal?
Oftentimes, yes. A caregiver’s contract is an “at-will” agreement. That means that it can be ended at any time by the person receiving care. This also means that the person receiving care can terminate one contract, and initiate a new contract with different rates, whenever they choose to do so.
They have to notify you in advance if they do so! If no advance notice is given concerning a change of contract, then this is definitely not legal. They also cannot say that a new contracts terms apply to work that was done under a previous contract, thus altering what they owe you for previous work.
I have been asked to become an independent contractor. Is that alright?
This is probably not legal. According to the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, someone who is an employer has complete control over a worker’s working conditions, hours and wages. Being a domestic caregiver almost requires your employer to establish these parameters with you when you enter into a contract. Therefore, asking you to become an independent contractor would most likely defy these conditions and be illegal.
The city I work in and the care agency I work for are different. Does this mean I still qualify for the minimum wage level that exists in the city that I am working in?
Yes, it does. Some more populated areas in California have higher minimum wage level requirements. If you are employed and working within the city of, for example San Francisco, then your employer is legally required to pay you at or above the minimum wage rate for San Francisco (which currently stands at $15.59).
If your employer is attempting to pay you a lower rate than the minimum wage requirements entail for their city of residence, then that is not legally acceptable and should prompt a conversation about legal levels of due compensation.
I think my employer may be violating my worker’s rights. What should I do?
It is always best to first address your employment conditions and concerns with your employer before seeking legal action. It may simply be a matter of misunderstanding, especially if it is your employer’s first time seeking help from a domestic care worker.
However, if you feel like your rights have been violated and you feel like you have been taken advantage of by your employer, as a domestic caregiver in the state of California, then it may be time to seek legal action. Aiman-Smith & Marcy fights for employee rights in California and may be able to help.