United States: Massachusetts Domestic Workers' Bill Of Rights Imposes Significant Burdens On Families

The Massachusetts Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights, Mass. Gen. Laws c. 149, §§ 190-191, went into effect on April 1, 2015, significantly changing the employment relationship between employers and their domestic employees. Key provisions of the statute and actions that need to be taken now are highlighted below.

Who Is Covered by the Law?

This new law applies to any individual or entity that employs one or more "domestic workers." A domestic worker is any individual who performs "work of a domestic nature within a household," including housekeeping, house cleaning, home management, nanny services, caretaking, laundering, cooking and home companion services. Staffing, employment and placement agencies are not considered employers under the law. Similarly, the law does not apply to personal care attendants providing services to the disabled and elderly under the MassHealth personal care attendant program nor to individuals providing childcare services on a casual, intermittent or irregular basis (e.g., babysitters whose primary job is not childcare).

Notice Requirements

The law requires employers to provide domestic workers with "notice of all applicable state and federal laws that apply to domestic workers." The Massachusetts Attorney General's office, which is charged with enforcing most of the new law, has made available on its website sample forms in English, Spanish and Portuguese that comply with this requirement.

In addition, for employees expected to work more than 16 hours per week, employers must provide the domestic worker with notice in writing containing the following information:

  • the employee's rate of pay, including overtime and additional compensation for added duties or multilingual skills;
  • working hours, including meal breaks and other time off;
  • if applicable, days of rest, sick days, vacation days, personal days, holidays, transportation, health insurance, severance, yearly raises and, whether or not earned, vacation days, personal days, holidays, severance, transportation costs and if health insurance costs are paid or reimbursed;
  • any fees or other costs, including costs for meals and lodging;
  • the responsibilities associated with the job;
  • the process for raising and addressing grievances and additional compensation if new duties are added;
  • the right to collect workers' compensation if injured;
  • the circumstances under which the employer will enter the domestic worker's designated living space on the employer's premises;
  • the required notice of employment termination by either party (see discussion below); and
  • any other rights or benefits afforded to the domestic worker.

The Attorney General has recently issued a Model Domestic Worker Employment Agreement and a Sample Record of Information for Domestic Workers that may be used to provide this required information. These template forms are necessarily generic, however, and include information that may be irrelevant in particular situations -- for example, referring to the rights of live-in domestic workers when no such individuals are employed. Written agreements more appropriately tailored to the employee's particular circumstances often will better serve the employer's interests. Regardless of the form used, the statute requires employers to retain a copy of the notice for three years from the date services were performed.

Hours of Work

Employees working 40 or more hours per week must have at least 24 consecutive hours off in each calendar week and 48 consecutive hours off during each calendar month. A domestic worker may voluntarily agree to work on a day of rest only if the agreement is in writing and if the employee is paid at a rate of time and one-half for all hours worked.

The law also makes clear that employees on duty for shifts of 24 hours or less who do not reside on the employer's premises must be paid for all working time, which includes meal, rest and sleep periods, unless the employee is free to leave the premises and is relieved of all work-related obligations. Unless otherwise agreed to in writing, all meal, rest and sleeping periods constitute working time for employees on duty for 24 hours or more, although the employer and employee can agree to exclude from working time a regularly scheduled sleeping period of not more than eight hours.

Note that, under existing law, employees working six or more hours per day are entitled to a 30-minute unpaid meal break. The employee may voluntarily waive this break (we recommend obtaining such a waiver in writing) but must be paid for time worked.

Wage Deductions and Recordkeeping

An employer may deduct for food and beverages from a domestic worker's wages if the food and beverages are voluntarily and freely chosen by the domestic worker. If the domestic worker cannot easily bring or prepare meals on premises, the employer may not make such a deduction. The employer may also deduct for lodging, but only if the employee voluntarily accepts and actually uses the lodging. The employer cannot deduct for lodging expenses if it requires the employee to reside on the employer's premises or in a particular location. Deductions for food and lodging will continue to be subject to certain maximum limits established by state regulations, and the employee's consent to those deductions must be in writing.

Like other employers, employers of domestic employees are required by state and federal law to maintain a record of the employee's wages and hours worked. The Attorney General's website contains a sample time sheet that can be used to capture hours worked.

Performance Evaluations

A domestic worker may request a written evaluation of his or her work performance after three months of employment and annually thereafter. Note, however, that the statute does not actually require the employer to provide the employee with such an evaluation. If one is provided, it is subject to the Massachusetts Personnel Records Act which, among other things, provides the employee with the right to inspect and dispute the evaluation.


In one of the most drastic departures from current law, an employer must now provide a domestic employee who resides in the employer's home who is fired "without cause" with written notice of the termination and either at least 30 days of lodging or two weeks' severance pay. The law does not define "cause," but it does provide that neither notice nor severance are required when good faith allegations are made in writing that the domestic worker has abused, neglected or caused other harmful conduct against the employer or the employer's household. The statute does not require termination notice or severance for domestic workers who do not reside in the employer's home.

Right of Privacy

The law prohibits employers from restricting, interfering with, or monitoring a domestic worker's private communications or taking the employee's documents or personal effects. It further prohibits employer conduct that constitutes forced services or human trafficking under existing law.

Prohibition Against Sexual and Other Forms of Harassment

Domestic workers may file claims of harassment with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The law also provides that female domestic workers are entitled to job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child under the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act.

Actions to Take Now

Unlike most employment laws, the Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights primarily impacts individuals and families who are often unfamiliar with the thicket of federal and state employment laws. And the risks of noncompliance are substantial. Violations of this statute may be prosecuted by the Attorney General or allegedly aggrieved domestic workers, and prevailing employees are entitled to treble damages for any lost wages plus attorneys' fees. Accordingly, individuals and families employing domestic workers should review their current practices and consult with counsel as appropriate to ensure those practices are compliant with the significant requirements of this new law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions