Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 58

The Long Journey Home: The Contested Exclusion and Inclusion of Domestic Workers from Federal Wage and Hour Protections in the United States

This paper covers the historical trajectory of domestic workers’ contested relationship with minimum wage and overtime protections in the United States. It begins with a brief snapshot of the current coverage of domestic workers in federal-level minimum wage and hour protections, followed by a description of the wage-setting tradition in the United States. It then traces the initial exclusion of domestic workers from foundational minimum wage and overtime protections in the 1930s through their partial inclusion in the 1970s and the on-going struggles for full inclusion today. In the current moment, special attention is given to recent state-level struggles for the full inclusion of privately paid domestic workers and a recent victory that won the full inclusion of publicly paid homecare workers. The narrative concludes with cross-cutting lessons from these histories, offered in the hopes of supporting the efforts of advocates in other nations to win minimum wage protections for domestic workers.