The Domestic Workers Ordinance – What You Need to Know

If you have work done or pay for services in or around your home, it’s important for you to know about the Seattle Domestic Workers Ordinance, which went into effect July 1, 2019. This law provides Seattle’s nannies, house cleaners, home care workers, gardeners, cooks, and household managers with:

  • Payment of Seattle’s minimum wage
  • Provision of meal periods and rest breaks
  • Provision of a day of rest after working more than six consecutive days (for live-in workers)

It’s the first municipal ordinance of its kind to create protections for domestic workers, a workforce that has long been excluded from rights and labor laws. 

At Hand in Hand, we are proud to have supported the passage of this ordinance. In our experience of working with people who hire workers to care for their children and their homes, we have found that people want to do what is right, but haven’t had an understanding of what “doing right” means. There is no Human Resources department to get advice from when you have a worker in the home. That’s why our organization provides resources we’ve developed in partnership with domestic worker organizations, like Nanny Share 101 and Basics on Childcare, to support domestic employers and engage in fair practices in their employment relationships. 

We have learned that many people who hire domestic workers do not realize how their practices have been shaped by both the historical exclusion of domestic workers from labor law protections and the deeply held cultural ideas about the value of women’s work and caregiving.

In the 1930s, domestic workers and farm workers, who in large majority were African American, were deliberately left out of New Deal era labor protections because Southern lawmakers negotiated their exclusion to extend racial oppression by the white owning class. Today, a majority of women of color and immigrant women workforce are still vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation because of the “behind-closed-doors” nature of their work. Without laws, the work is unregulated, making it difficult for domestic workers – who like all workers – are supporting their families and livelihood in increasingly expensive cities such as Seattle. 

People who hire workers are also influenced by societal ideas about care in the home. The task of managing a household is often assumed to be informal or of lesser value, but we know this is rooted in archaic ideas about women’s work in the home. Today, if we reflect on the roles that nannies, house cleaners, and home attendants play in our lives – from ensuring that our children are cared for while parents are at work or providing support to people with disabilities to live independently in their communities – we can understand both the personal and community contribution that domestic workers make to our lives. 


Hand in Hand is a national network of employers of nannies, house cleaners and home attendants, our families and allies. Founded in 2010 by a group of domestic employers who worked side by side with domestic workers to support the passage of the New York State Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, we believe that dignified and respectful working conditions benefit workers and employers alike. We envision a future where people live in caring communities that recognize all of our interdependence. To learn more and to support our cause, please visit Hand in Hand or contact us at seattle@domesticemployers.org.

  One thought on “The Domestic Workers Ordinance – What You Need to Know

  1. SeattleMom
    August 2, 2019 at 10:54 am

    The ordinance is unclear about how to take into account living expenses for live-in domestic workers. It’s not as simple as paying full rate then charging for room & board because the worker doesn’t exactly have the option of shopping around for alternate housing. And what if the family has set the rent too high? It ought to be close to market rates but who is enforcing that? How can workers and families get more specific guidance? Thank you.

    • August 30, 2019 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks, @SeattleMom, for your inquiry. We’ve attached a response to your comment and questions from our partners at Hand in Hand, the organization that actively assisted in getting the Ordinance passed and is a local resource on the topic.

      “According to our contact at the Seattle Office of Labor Standards, the rules around live-in workers and living expenses are being developed in the rule making process for the city, which will be completed in October to provide more specific guidance for Seattle.

      It should be noted that federal labor standards (https://www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/credit_wages_faq.htm#5) only allow for a deduction from wages if the provided housing is voluntary on the part of the worker and benefits the worker. This avoids an employer creating a job requirement to live onsite, when it primarily benefits the employer not worker.

      In the cases where living onsite is voluntary and benefits the worker, federal law states that the deduction “may not exceed the ‘reasonable cost’ or ‘fair value’ of the facilities furnished, whichever is less.”

      It is industry standard to pay live-in nannies their full hourly rate, and not to deduct cost of room & board from wages.”

      – the PEPS team

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: