According to an advocacy group that supports the rights of domestic workers, the contribution made by these household employees is a key element in the growing prosperity of the Rio Grande Valley area. Unfortunately, many of the domestic workers do not have a full understanding of their legal rights under Texas and federal wage and labor laws. As a result, some unscrupulous employers have been taking advantage of poorly informed household workers by undercutting their wages.
The coordinator of the advocacy group that hopes to educate these workers regarding their rights has said that some of the employers who take advantage of them have what he describes as a 'hacienda' or 'plantation' mentality. Many of the household employees are immigrants and some employers feel that they are already doing enough to let the domestic workers stay in their homes and receive room and board as part of their compensation. Since they are providing food and lodging, the more exploitative household employers are using that fact as a rationalization for the low wages they pay their domestic workers.
Labor law states otherwise. Texas domestic workers, along with other non-exempt employees, must be paid a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. This is not, however, a law that is being adhered to by all household employers. The advocacy group's coordinator illustrates that fact through a recent case in which it was reported that the hourly rate by which one domestic employee was paid worked out to only $1.67 an hour, an amount which is more than $5 below the minimum hourly wage.
There are many misconceptions about the rights of domestic workers in Texas and elsewhere that should be cleared up. Both workers and employers need to be educated and made aware of what the labor laws stipulate for household employees. Domestic workers and other employees who believe that the wages being paid to them are below what the law requires will find it in their best interests to seek outside advice and assistance from those who are knowledgeable and experienced in matters of labor law.
Source: publicnewsservice.org, "Domestic Workers in Texas are Fighting for Their Rights," John Michaelson, July 11, 2013