By: Angelic Papacalos

Domestic work has traditionally been associated with female gender roles in the home. These workers are known as the caregivers, nannies, and cleaning ladies.  Since the mid-twentieth century, women have increasingly left their homes to pursue careers.[1] Most, if not all domestic worker jobs take the place of the wife or mother’s role in the house. Whether the household needs someone to fill this role because the female in the home works full time or just needs an extra hand once in awhile, another woman usually fills this role.[2] However, these jobs are not fully recognized by the law.  Federal law recognizes domestic workers, but only seven states[3] include these workers in their labor laws.[4] But, casual babysitters and companions[5] are not covered at all.[6]

Recognition by the law has been a recent change.  The first state domestic worker protection law went into effect in 2010 in New York.[7] State domestic worker protections generally cover unemployment, social security, and wage and hour. However, domestic workers are excluded from some major federal labor laws including: National Labor Relations Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, and Age Discrimination in Employment Act.[8] Therefore, domestic workers still do not have the right to organize or collectively bargain.[9] The right to organize or collectively bargain is one of the four principles of the International Labor Organization. That means that right is recognized globally as one of the most fundamental workers rights, yet domestic workers can’t even reap these benefits.[10] Domestic workers also are not covered by most of the anti-discrimination laws.[11]

It is a mystery whether domestic workers will be provided with these rights eventually. Even though women have been in the workforce for years, there is still a stigma associated with working instead of taking care of the family. It is likely it will take awhile before these workers are provided with more rights, because domestic workers fill the role society feels women should be doing on their own instead of hiring someone to do it for them. The number of states with the few laws covering domestic workers will likely grow as society accepts domestic jobs as real jobs. Although it is 2016, it is apparent that a woman’s role in the workplace is still questioned. The number of women as CEOs or in high-powered political positions and the lack of progress to close the current wage gap show that female dominated jobs are not likely to gain public support anytime soon.[12]

[1]See Gender, migration and domestic labor, (Jan. 8, 2010),

[2] See Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Rauner signs law extending labor protections to domestic workers, Chicago Tribune (Nov. 21, 2016), (referencing a 2012 study by the Economic Policy Institute that said ninety percent of domestic workers are women).

[3] These states are: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon. However, Illinois’s law does not go into effect until January 2017.

[4] See Id. (stating Illinois as the seventh state to adopt domestic worker protections).

[5] Companions provide services for individuals who are unable to care for themselves because of age or illness.

[6] 29 USCA § 213(a)(15)

[7] See Sharon Lerner, “The Help” Gets Its Due, (Feb. 22, 2012),

[8] 29 U.S.C. §152(3); 42 U.S.C. §2000(e); 29 C.F.R. §1975.6; 29 U.S.C. §2611; 42 U.S.C. §12111(5)(a); 29 U.S.C. § 630(b).

[9] See 29 U.S.C. §152(3).

[10] Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention, Jul. 1, 1949, ILO 87, 98.

[11] 42 U.S.C. §2000(e); 29 C.F.R. §1975.6; 29 U.S.C. §2611; 42 U.S.C. §12111(5)(a); 29 U.S.C. § 630(b).

[12] See Valentina Zarya, The Percentage of Female CEOs in the Fortune 500 Drops to 4%, Fortune (June 6, 2016),; Bryce Covert, The gender wage gap hasn’t budged in 9 years, ThinkProgress (Sept. 13, 2016),

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