What Are the Caregiver Rights in California?

Why Caregiver Rights Matter

Caregivers provide a vital service to our communities, often without the appropriate protections and benefits. In California, where the domestic workforce is growing rapidly, caregiver rights have been a focal point of labor law reform. Understanding your rights isn't just important – it's crucial. Your role in supporting others must be met with fair treatment and respect.

Keep reading to learn more about how California's wage and hour laws provide protections for caregivers, caretakers, and other domestic workers.

Domestic Worker vs. Personal Attendant

Understanding the distinction between a domestic worker and a personal attendant is fundamental to knowing your entitlements. You are a domestic worker if you provide services related to the care of people in the home or maintain private households or their premises.

The term "domestic worker" covers a wide range of occupations, including:

  • Childcare providers,
  • Nannies,
  • Caregivers and personal attendants,
  • Housekeepers,
  • Cooks, and
  • Other household workers.

On the other hand, a personal attendant is someone employed by a private householder or recognized third-party employer in the healthcare industry to work in a private household.

Overtime Protections for Caregivers

California's Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (AB 241) is clear about overtime protections. Personal attendants receive overtime at 1.5 times their regular pay rate for any hours worked in excess of nine hours a day or 45 hours a week. For domestic workers who do not fall under the personal attendant category, the standard overtime protections under California's Wage Order No. 15 apply.

Overtime Rules for Live-In Domestic Workers

If you're a live-in domestic worker but not a personal attendant, you're eligible for overtime pay if you work more than 9 hours a day. Also, if you work any hours on your sixth and seventh days in a row, your first 9 hours will be paid at an overtime rate. You'll receive double your usual wage for every extra hour if you work more than 9 hours on those sixth and seventh days.

Overtime Rules for Non-Live-In Domestic Workers

If you work more than 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, you should receive 1.5 times your usual pay rate. This also applies to the first 8 hours you work on the seventh day in a row. You're entitled to twice your regular rate if you work over 12 hours in one day or more than 8 hours on the seventh day in a row.

Additional Protections Under the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights

Aside from overtime compensation, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights extends further protections to ensure that caregivers and other domestic workers receive fair treatment. First and foremost, all domestic workers are entitled to at least the California minimum wage. The minimum wage a domestic worker is entitled to may be higher in cities and/or counties where there is an established legal minimum wage higher than the CA state minimum wage.

Meal & Rest Breaks

Meal and rest periods also form an integral part of the rights afforded to domestic workers. By law, caregivers (except for personal attendants) are granted meal and rest breaks throughout the workday. These periods are critical for maintaining the well-being and alertness of the caregiver.

The duration and frequency of meal and rest breaks are as follows:

  • One 30-minute meal break for shifts over 5 hours
  • One 10-minute rest break for shifts ranging from 3.5-6 hours
  • Two 10-minute rest breaks for shifts ranging from 6-10 hours
  • Three 10-minute rest breaks for shifts ranging from 10-14 hours

However, there are specific circumstances where the standard meal and rest break protocols can be adjusted. For example, if the job demands preclude uninterrupted breaks, a caregiver may consent to an on-duty paid meal period, documented in a written agreement—the employee can withdraw this agreement at any time.

Additionally, caregivers can voluntarily forgo their meal break for shorter workdays of 6 hours or less. If working up to 12 hours, the second meal break may be waived, provided the first break was taken.

Live-In Worker & Overnight Provisions

Under California's Wage Order No. 15, live-in domestic workers are entitled to 12 consecutive hours of duty-free time within each workday. When live-in employees are asked to work during their designated off-duty hours or beyond the 12-hour duty-free period, they are compensated at an overtime rate of one and one-half times their regular pay rate for those additional hours worked.

Similarly, if an employee is required to be on the work premises "on-call" and available to work or respond to the needs of the person they are caring for, they are to be paid for this time. In these circumstances, California law considers the domestic worker "on duty¬†“ even if they are not ultimately called upon to work.

Exclusions to Domestic Worker Protections

While many employees are protected under California's Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, it's important to note that there are specific exclusions to this rule. Those not covered by these protections primarily encompass employees closely related to their employer or those who only casually perform caretaking services, like babysitting.

Employees exempt from the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights overtime protections include:

  • Parents, grandparents, spouses, siblings, or children of the employer,
  • Babysitters under the age of 18,
  • Irregular or intermittent babysitters,
  • People providing services to developmentally disabled individuals through a regional or state voucher program, and
  • People providing childcare services under the Child Care and Development Services Act of the Education Code or the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Act of the Welfare and Institutions Code.

Advocating for Caregiver Rights

Being a caregiver or caretaker can sometimes feel like a thankless job. It can be even more challenging if your employment rights are violated. In these situations, speaking up and fighting back can be very difficult. However, you do have rights, and you don't have to go through this alone.

At Kesluk, Silverstein, Jacob & Morrison, we understand how difficult it can be to face wage and hour violations, especially when working closely with your employer and their family. If you believe your rights have been violated, we strongly encourage you to reach out to our law firm and schedule a consultation with one of our employment law attorneys.

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