Chicago Requires Nannies, Caregivers, Others To Work On Contracts

The new law will fine employers $500 per offense if found in violation.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Chicago is one of the first major cities in the country requiring employers to provide contracts to domestic workers.

The new law went into effect on Jan. 1. It aims to give nannies, caregivers and household cleaners fair wages and better working conditions.

Magdalena Zylinska has been a caregiver in Chicago since the 1990s, after moving to America from Poland. In an interview, she told NBC 5 how her responsibilities as a caregiver and household cleaner didn’t match what she was getting paid – sometimes just $2 to $3 an hour.

At one point, her employer was able to add responsibilities without proper compensation and little debate over the workload.

"I have to adjust to the situation because we did not have a written contract," said Zylinska. "This is our main source of income. So, of course we're frantically scared."

Zylinska said she felt like she had little say in how many hours she worked per week, fearing she would be fired.

"People are trying to tell you it’s okay because you’re undocumented. No, it’s not okay," said Zylinska.

As of Jan. 1, Chicago’s Department of Labor Standards requires employers to provide domestic workers with a contract in their primary language that includes pay rate, work shifts and clear responsibilities. These workers must get paid a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour.

Employers who violate these terms or retaliate could face fines of up to $500 per offense, according to the Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

"The contract gives us some kind of security," said Zylinska. "It gives us the structure that other workers have that we never had."

For years, Arise Chicago has been working to gain rights for domestic workers. They’re now hosting webinars and provide model contracts for workers to use to get started.

You can find these resources by clicking here.

You can also call Arise Chicago at the following hotlines for help:

Español:  312-833-1058

English:  312-833-1810

Polish:  312-835-1085

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