Domestic workers, such as nannies, housekeepers, and caregivers, provide household labor in private homes.
Home health care workers, also referred to as caregivers or companions to the sick, disabled, or elderly, are also domestic workers. They live inside or outside the household in which they provide care, and can be employed by a household or by an agency.
Casual, part-time babysitters are exempt from both federal and New Jersey employment laws and are not included within the term “domestic worker.”
Many domestic workers are immigrants, and some are undocumented immigrants. Most of the labor laws discussed below protect domestic workers regardless of their immigration status. For example, immigration status does not affect the right to be paid, nor eligibility for workers compensation. However, undocumented workers are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
For more information regarding unpaid wages or overtime, see Wages and Hours.
Minimum Wage and Overtime
All domestic workers are covered by New Jersey minimum wage and overtime laws. The 2021 minimum wage in New Jersey is $12 per hour. It will continue to rise one dollar per hour every year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2024.
An employer must schedule payday ahead of time with the worker. Employees must be paid at least twice a month, and no more than 10 days after the end of the pay period. If employment ends for any reason, the worker must be paid by the next regularly scheduled payday. The employer cannot force the worker to accept direct deposit of wages, but it can be an option.
All domestic workers, including home health care and live-in domestic workers, are entitled to overtime pay at one-and-a-half times the regular hourly rate for every hour worked over 40 hours.
Sleep Time and On-Call Time
An employee’s time in the workplace should be counted as hours worked. When employees are not required to stay on the employer’s premises and are free to spend time for personal pursuits of more than a 30 minute period time may be excluded. All other time spent working counts as hours worked for the purposes of wage payment.
However, an employee called to work by the employer must be paid for at least one hour, even if the employee is immediately sent home. If an employee is called to work so frequently, or if the employee’s on-call time is so extensive, that he or she is not free to use the time effectively for their own benefit, the waiting time counts as hours worked. This is considered as “engaged to wait” rather than “waiting to be engaged,” and thus the employee shall be compensated for all the waiting time.
Live-in domestic workers and other employees whose hours worked are irregular and intermittent should usually have all their hours counted toward pay. Short breaks of less than 30 minutes should not be deducted. A regulatory statement of pay limitation to the extent that it is not feasible to account for the hours actually on duty should rarely be held applicable. In any case, such workers must be paid for at least eight hours of each day on duty. In most cases such workers should be paid for all hours worked. Only in limited situations where it is not feasible to count hours—excluding breaks and on call time, which should be counted anyway—is there an exception, but workers generally should be paid for all hours worked.
Meal and Rest Breaks
Employers are not required to provide a meal or rest break. However, if the employer does provide rest breaks, from five to 20 minutes, that time is payable to the worker as time worked.
Employers can make food and lodging deductions, but they must keep record of the costs. Employers should not deduct housing costs for domestic workers if the housing is for the benefit of the employer, to have the worker readily available. Deductions are limited to the “fair value,” which cannot be more than the actual cost and cannot include employer profit. Employers may not count items that primarily benefit themselves as a deduction.
If the employer-provided lodging violates any laws, or if no fair-market rental value exists for the lodging in the competitive open market, fair value is considered zero, and the employer cannot deduct such lodging costs from pay.
Domestic workers are entitled to workers compensation. Immigration status has no bearing on eligibility. Claims must be filed within two years of the relevant accident. For more information, see Workers Compensation.
Do keep records of wages, deductions, and hours worked whenever possible. Domestic workers are commonly paid in cash, making it harder to prove eligibility for benefits or wage claims.
In New Jersey, all employers are required to keep detailed records of wages and working conditions for six years. Any employer who makes deductions from wages for food and lodging must keep records of those deductions.
This information last reviewed: Jan 12, 2021