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Help's A-Comin' to a Home Near You

Help’s A-Comin’ to a Home Near You

Even in the current “down” economy, employment of either full-time or part-time domestic workers is at record levels. The numbers are estimated to be at least 1.5 million domestic workers countrywide, and that is most certainly a low estimate.

 Services provided by domestics are awesome, but there can be risks to you beyond the occasional broken vase. The following are some ways to reduce the risks of employing domestic workers and to ensure that these workers are protected as well.

 * If you are hiring a domestic worker through ads that appear on your doorknob or placed under your doormats, run a background check on these potential domestics to see if they (a) are U.S. citizens, (b) have a history of filing lawsuits, (c) have credit problems, or (d) have a criminal record. If you are using an employment agency, verify the above steps are performed.

* If using an outside firm or agency to hire your help, verify if the worker has workers compensation coverage. Each year, ask for an updated certificate of insurance from the employment agency, to verify that coverage is in effect.

 * It has been said that you should also prepare a well-organized and documented human resource file for every domestic employee you hire.  And, in addition, you should have an employment application as well as an employment manual or handbook. However, none of us is going to go to this amount of work unless we have several full-time staff at home. You might want to simply make sure that you file 1099s in these post 2010 California election years, particularly if you have election plans.  

 * If you have several domestic employees, you must consider employment practices liability (EPL) insurance. This coverage can protect you from a wide variety of lawsuits, including allegations of discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, etc.  A personal injury endorsement under your homeowners policy and a personal umbrella policy are also recommended.  But, if you develop children with the assistance of the hired help, your best advice is to seek family law help!

 * You may also want to consider some type of fidelity bond for these employees, particularly for new employees. This bond is supposed to protect you if the domestic worker commits a dishonest act in your employment (e.g., theft of jewelry). But, often these bonds are useless; a locked safe is the best insurance. If you instead opt to get help through an agency, verify that the staffing agency has purchased fidelity bonds on their employees and ask for a copy of the bond.


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