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Domestic Service

This information has been prepared to help you understand wage and hour laws that affect domestic employment. Wage and hour requirements under state law sometimes vary from federal law. In such cases, employers will need to apply the standard most beneficial to the employee. Please note that separate factsheets address the requirements for babysitters and companions to the elderly or those with disabilities.

"Domestic service" refers to services of a household nature performed by an employee in or about a family home (permanent or temporary) of the employer. The term includes employees like cooks, waiters, butlers, valets, maids, housekeepers, nannies, governesses, nurses, janitors, gardeners and companions to the elderly or those with disabilities. 

Both state and federal wage and hour laws generally require that domestic service employees be paid at least minimum wage and overtime. 

When performed on a casual basis, both Oregon and federal law exempt domestic service employment from the requirement to pay minimum wage and overtime. Under Oregon law, the exemption covers only employment that is irregular and intermittent and which is not performed by an individual whose vocation is providing domestic service. 

Under federal law domestic service work would not be exempt as casual if:

  • The individual is employed in domestic service work by one or more employers for more than eight hours in any workweek; or 
  • The individual’s compensation would constitute wages under section 209(a)(6) of title II of the Social Security Act. 29 CFR § 552.2.

Specific questions relating to the application of the federal exemption for casual domestic service employment should be directed to the U.S. Department of Labor at 503-326-3057.

In addition to casual domestic service, specific minimum wage and overtime exemptions apply to babysitters and in-home companions​ to the elderly and those with disabilities. 

Q. Is it true that live-in nannies are exempt from minimum wage and overtime?

A. In addition to the exemptions discussed above, Oregon law also exempts an individual who performs child care services (either in the home of the individual or in the home of the child) from state minimum wage and overtime requirements. A live-in nanny, however, would still be entitled to federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) and overtime. A separate state law also requires domestic workers to be paid overtime at one and one-half times the worker’s base rate for hours worked over 40 in a work week (or over 44 hours if the domestic worker lives in the home). As above, this provision does not apply to casual labor, but would include adult childcare workers/nannies as well as in-home companions who do not meet the stricter federal requirements for exemption.

Q. What other provisions of law apply to domestic service workers?

A. Under state law, domestic workers are entitled to at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each work week. If the worker agrees to work during a day of rest, the employer is required to pay for that work at the overtime rate of pay (one and one-half times the regular rate of pay). If the worker resides in the home of the employer, they are entitled to at least eight consecutive hours of rest within each 24-hour period and adequate facilities for uninterrupted sleep. Resident domestic workers must also be allowed to cook their own food, subject to restrictions based on the religious or health needs of the home’s residents. Finally, if a domestic worker worked an average of at least 30 hours per week during the previous year, they must receive at least three paid personal days off. 

Q. If an employee is able to eat and sleep on the premises do we have to pay them while they are eating or sleeping?

A. Not necessarily. If the shift is 24 hours or longer in duration, the employer and employee may agree to exclude meal periods when the employee is relieved of all duty for at least 30 continuous minutes, and a regularly-scheduled sleeping period of not more than eight hours from hours worked, provided adequate sleeping facilities are furnished and the employee can usually enjoy an uninterrupted sleep period. If the sleeping period is longer than eight hours, only eight hours may be excluded from compensable hours worked. 

If there is no express or implied agreement, no meal periods or sleep time may be excluded from hours worked. If the sleeping period is interrupted by a call to duty, the interruption must be counted as hours worked. If the interruptions prohibit the employee from getting at least five continuous hours of sleep time, the entire period must be counted as hours worked.

If the domestic worker resides on the premises, an employer must provide the worker at least eight hours of rest within each 24-hour period and a space with adequate conditions for uninterrupted sleep. If the period of rest is interrupted by a call to duty, any time worked during the rest period must be paid at one and one-half times the employee’s base rate, regardless of the number of hours worked in that work week. 

An employee who resides on the premises is not considered as working all the time the employee is on the premises. Ordinarily, the employee may engage in private pursuits and have complete freedom from duties during certain times and may leave the premises for the employee’s own purposes. Any reasonable agreement between the parties which takes all of the pertinent facts and circumstances into consideration will be accepted. Best practices include putting such agreements in writing.

Q. Is the payment of minimum wage required for people hired to do yard work? 

A. In general, minors or adults who mow lawns and perform other yard work in a neighborhood community generally provide their own equipment, set their own work schedules and are free to hire other individuals. Such persons may be recognized as independent contractors and, if so, would not be covered by the minimum wage requirements. On the other hand, if the individual uses your tools and equipment, you set their work hours, and you pay them by the hour, you may be required to pay minimum wage and overtime for all work over 40 hours per week.

Revised October, 2018

Nothing on this website is intended as legal advice.  Any responses to specific questions are based on the facts as we understand them, and not intended to apply to any other situations.  This communication is not an agency order.  If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney.  We attempt to update the information on this website as soon as practicable following changes or developments in the laws and rules affecting Oregon employers, but we make no warranties or representations, express or implied, about whether the information provided is current.  We urge you to check the applicable statutes and administrative rules yourself and to consult with legal counsel prior to taking action that may invoke employee rights or employer responsibilities or omitting to act when required by law to act.