Domestic workers

Domestic workers in Chicago must now have written contracts under new ordinance

A workers’ rights group is trying to publicize an ordinance that went into effect earlier this year, requiring employers to provide a written contract to domestic workers.

The law covers nannies, housekeepers and workers caring for the elderly, regardless of citizenship documents.

Informing individual workers and their employers is a challenge, said Ania Jakubek, of Arise Chicago, a workers’ rights group that helped ensure the adoption of the the prescription in June.

“These are not registered companies that you can find through the [Illinois] secretary of state, ”Jakubek said at a virtual press conference on Tuesday.

She also noted that there was “a lot of fear” when it came to workers seeking to exercise their rights and talk to their bosses about getting a contract.

Jakubek encouraged anyone with questions to call a hotline created by the group and made up of speakers of English, Spanish and Polish. The number is 312-833-1048.

Examples of contracts are also available on the group’s website at

“We’re here to help you break your fear,” said Sofia Magdalena Portillo, 69, a seasoned housekeeper.

“We hope that this contract does not reach all of these workers so late in your life, like me,” she added. “Having something in writing will be very beneficial for the workers and the employer so that everyone has the same understanding and the same expectations. “

Sofia Magdalena Portillo, 69, a seasoned housekeeper, praised the new city ordinance requiring written contracts for domestic workers. “Having something in writing will be very beneficial for the workers and the employer, so that everyone has the same understanding and the same expectations. ”
Courtesy of Arise Chicago

Complaints to the city’s Bureau of Labor Standards about employers failing to comply with the law can result in a fine of $ 500, said Militza Pagán, a lawyer at the Shriver Center on Poverty Law who helped run the law. new ordinance through Chicago City Council.

Pagán encouraged employers to familiarize themselves with the law, which also provides protections for workers against retaliation for exercising their right to a contract.

Isabel Santos, a nanny and housekeeper, said the contract would help workers demand what they deserve.

“Before I learned to defend myself, I was paid less than the minimum wage as a domestic worker and the person who hired me thought they were doing me a favor,” said Santos, who is also the organizer of Arise. “But it wasn’t true. It wasn’t a favor. I am a hard worker. I deserve respect … now with this contract we can defend ourselves against injustice.

Many domestic workers studied at university before coming to the United States, where they encountered a language divide because they could not speak English, Santos said.

“We are not ignorant. But sometimes we are afraid to defend ourselves, ”she said.

“Our work is very important because it takes care of the families of our employers and their homes,” she said.