· If hiring a domestic worker directly, run a background check on 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 using an employment agency, verify the above steps are performed. Prospective domestics with major concerns of these types should not be hired.
· Check with your insurance agent to see if you need to procure workers compensation coverage. Your agent will be familiar with your state laws concerning this issue. Of course, you may choose to voluntarily provide workers compensation coverage, which may be a good idea. As discussed below, even if your homeowners policy covers injuries to your domestic employee, the policy limit could be grossly inadequate in the event of serious injury, permanent disability, or death.
The advantage of workers compensation coverage is that it provides broader protection (e.g., disability payments) than your homeowners policy, including unlimited medical expenses in most states. So, even if not required by law, it is a good idea to consider voluntarily providing this important coverage.
· If an outside firm or agency is used to hire your domestic, verify the worker has workers compensation coverage. Obtain a certificate of insurance from the employment agency on an annual basis showing this coverage.
· Prepare a well-organized and documented human resource file for every domestic employee. In addition, you should have an employment application as well as an employment manual or handbook. This manual will reduce the chances of an employment-related lawsuit because it can include protective provisions detailing your opposition to any employee mistreatment. An employee manual written or revised by an experienced attorney is an even more effective risk control recommendation.
· If there are multiple domestic workers, an employment practices liability (EPL) policy may be needed. This coverage can protect you from a wide variety of lawsuits, including allegations of discrimination, wrongful termination, harassment, and slander. A personal injury endorsement under your homeowners policy is also recommended.
· Discuss with your insurance agent the possibility of increasing the personal liability and medical payments limits under your homeowners policy to the highest available limits, particularly if workers compensation benefits are not required or purchased. A personal umbrella policy is also recommended.
· Consider some type of fidelity bond for these employees, particularly for new employees. This bond will protect you if the domestic worker commits a dishonest act in your employment (e.g., theft of jewelry). If an employment agency or service provides these employees, verify that the employment agency has purchased fidelity bonds on them and ask for a copy of the bond certification form.
· Make sure that your employment practices comply with federal requirements, such as the withholding of payroll taxes and proof of citizenship.