Household employers struggle with their home being both a personal residence, and a workplace for others. The U.S. government enforces many laws and regulations that protect workers against discrimination, with many states and cities adopting workers’ rights laws similar to the New York Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Household employers must recognize that their home is their business location, and take the steps necessary to prevent discrimination in the workplace.
Employers need to be aware of all laws and regulations affecting them, including federal, state, and local. Although many federal laws require five, fifteen, or even twenty employees for a law to apply, discrimination laws (especially state and local laws) could apply to household employers. Be aware of any discrimination laws in your state or locality and how they apply to you, and then implement employment practices to avoid arguments or even a lawsuit. Here are some common discrimination laws to keep in mind:
- The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) protects employees from being discriminated against based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Federal law also prohibits discrimination based on age, pregnancy, disability, genetic predisposition, and U.S. citizenship status.
- Sexual harassment policies stipulate that no employee should be subject to unwelcome verbal or physical conduct that is sexual in nature or that shows hostility to the employee because of his or her gender. Sexual harassment can have devastating effects on the workplace. It is best for an employer to include an anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policy in his or her employee handbook, which specifically addresses sexual harassment and includes a non-retaliation statement.
- The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the ADA Amendment Act (ADAAA) prohibits discrimination against any qualified person with a disability. The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices—not only hiring and firing.
All employers must comply with all laws pertaining to them—federal, state, and local. The onus is on the employer to know all the laws and regulations by which to operate your household employment.
Follow these guidelines to help ensure that you, as a household employer, can prevent discrimination in your home, which is your employee’s workplace.
- Treat all employees equally.
- Hire, promote, and fire without bias.
- Review employment policies for unfair practices that have a negative impact on a protected class (i.e., race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, or pregnancy).
- Eliminate any unfair or negative policies or practices.
- Take immediate action to eliminate discriminatory conduct, including inappropriate comments or behavior.
- Encourage diversity.
- Never retaliate against an employee for filing a discrimination complaint — it’s illegal to do so.
- Establish and enforce zero-tolerance for unlawful activities and behaviors such as sexual harassment.
- Be prepared to respond to any complaint of sexual harassment. While your employee handbook covers your zero-tolerance policy, know how you will handle this sensitive issue.
- Establish and implement procedures for dealing with illegal discrimination, and document them in your employee handbook.
- Keep in mind that many employment agencies are subject to equal employment opportunity laws and may not legally discriminate against a candidate or employee on your behalf.
- Be aware of the potential for document abuse and take care to verify a document’s validity.
Maintaining a safe and happy workplace for your employee means implementing human resource practices in your home to prevent discrimination. This will go a long way to creating a satisfying work environment and building a positive relationship with your employee.
We’re here to help in your efforts to prevent discrimination. Please contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information.