Seattle domestic worker earns over $71,000 from employer

The city’s Domestic Workers Ordinance was passed on July 1, 2019 to protect nannies, housekeepers, gardeners and cooks working in private homes.

Editor’s Note: The video above about Seattle wanting raise awareness of the rights of domestic workers was originally released in June 2022.

SEATTLE — A Seattle domestic worker received more than $71,000 in back wages from an employer as part of a settlement on Friday. The settlement was announced on the third anniversary of a city ordinance to give people working in private homes the right to minimum wage, rest breaks and meal breaks.

The Seattle Office of Labor Standards (OLS) accused a domestic employer of violating the Domestic Workers OrdinanceMinimum Wage, Paid Sick and Safe Time (PSST) and Wage Theft Ordinances.

The employer allegedly failed to pay the correct minimum wage for part of the live-in domestic worker’s employment, failed to provide PSST or pay overtime, failed to pay for all hours worked, and failed to not kept required records for payday information.

In a unique settlement, the employer agreed to pay the worker a total of $71,610.03 in back wages, interest and civil penalties.

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“I would encourage other domestic workers to come forward and not be afraid if they think contracts and payment are not being followed based on the work being done,” said the domestic worker, who did not not been identified. First, it was my ignorance of the laws and the rights I had, but thanks to friends who supported me to do so, I lost my fear and filed a complaint. It was worth the risk and a favorable outcome was given. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated in the investigation and made this result possible so that a favorable agreement could be found.

After the settlement, the OLS said the employer agreed to implement a policy for the PSST, to track employees’ hours worked, keep payroll records and give notifications with the payment of wages, employment and PSST information if employing a Seattle-based domestic worker in the future.

Domestic workers like nannies, housekeepers, gardeners and cooks became the focus of legislation in Seattle in 2018. The city was the first in the United States to adopt a bill of rights for domestic workers.

Over the past seven years, the city of Seattle has settled nearly 1,000 cases where employers have agreed to pay their workers owed wages totaling more than $24 million.

In June, the OLS announced one-time funding available for Seattle-area organizations to raise awareness and help domestic workers understand their rights. The $250,000 for community organizing of domestic workers will be used for up to eight projects. Nonprofit organizations and grassroots groups that receive fiscal sponsorship from a nonprofit organization can apply for funding.

The ordinance applies to people working in private homes. These workers are entitled to the Seattle minimum wage, uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, and protections from sexual harassment and discrimination, according to the ordinance.

Workers who live or sleep where they are employed are entitled to one day off after working six consecutive days.

The Domestic Workers Standards Council, created in 2019 after the ordinance was passed, said domestic work is done primarily by women and people of color. There were approximately 33,000 nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in Seattle in 2019.

The council said that “the work of domestic workers is the invisible engine that drives our society”.

“We are proud of the courage of this domestic worker,” the Domestic Workers Standards Council said after the settlement. “She is an example for the thousands of workers who are being abused, raise your voice and make sure the laws are upheld.”

The OLS said domestic workers can ask a question or file a complaint by calling 206-256-5297, emailing [email protected] or complete this online form.

Employers looking to hire domestic workers can call 206-256-5297 or email [email protected] for free compliance assistance and training.

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