How to Avoid Typical Lawsuits When Hiring Your First Employees

Hiring employees for your house cleaning business is an important step to grow your client base. Jump right in and you may make huge mistakes that could cost you thousands – or your business. We are specifically talking about hiring employees; this does not include independent contractors, which we’ll cover in another article.

How to Prepare Your Business for Employees

Once your residential cleaning company starts growing, you may reach a point where you will need to turn customers away or hire employees. Before you do this you need to assemble your employee handbooks:

  1. Employee Handbook – Ensures your workers comply with your company policies and procedures
  2. Employee Training Handbook – Documented procedures for your workers to follow when arriving to a job, cleaning the home, and leaving the residence.
  3. Employee Team Lead Handbook – This handbooks documents the job of a team lead and the procedures they are to follow to manage the team – required only if you work in teams.
  4. Employee Safety Handbook – Includes OSHA safety requirements for employees that apply to your business.

This sounds like a big job, but it really only involves documenting what you already know about cleaning your client homes. As you build your business, you can document a little at a time. To make this easy so you know what to include, use these templates.

What are Current Laws That Affect Your Hiring Process

Before you decide to hire employees for your residential cleaning business, you want to make sure you have all the information you need on current laws, both locally and at the federal level. Being preventive now will help you avoid legal issues in the future.

Assemble your hiring tools such as your initial employment ad and all other recruitment material. It’s a good idea to have it reviewed legally to ensure you have not included any bias or discriminatory language. This includes all the interview questions you plan to use.

You may think you’re employment material is “clean,” but today such seemingly innocuous qualifications as age limits or other limitations that pertain to physical labor can be interpreted as biased. You’re vulnerable if your ad implies the possibility of discrimination.

Legally, you are not allowed to exclude anyone from applying for a job. Unfortunately, it is the appearance – not fact – that triggers most bias litigation today. You want to avoid court time and heavy fines at all costs.

For example, you may want to hire high school grads for a summer intern or trainee position, but you are not allowed to advertise that. Instead you should solicit directly at high schools in your area. To do this you should meet with the officials at each high school for instructions on how to circulate your need. They may have some creative ideas they can share.

You also cannot:

  • Using age is a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The only time age can be used in hiring is when it is considered a bona fide occupational qualification. For example, age limit is set for safety purposes for airline pilots. You’re not going to find one for house cleaning.
  • Use gender to limit employment applications. Gender cannot be specified because it violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Make sure you are using gender-neutral terms, such as house cleaner or house cleaning technician instead of maid. Today, the word maid is biased to mean women and could get you into trouble.
  • Require a high school diploma – this can be seen as discriminatory. The argument can be made that requiring a diploma is not a bona fide occupational qualification. Instead, create the ad to include specifically what you need. If you need someone who can do inventory and manage your product “recipes,” then that’s exactly what you need to put in the ad.

State, federal, and national laws are changing all the time. There may be some states and localities that have enacted their own regulations and other protected characteristics for sexual orientation, etc. Depending on where you are located, contact your state (or province, national, etc.) labor board to obtain all the regulations.

In the United States, the major federal labor statutes are:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The federal statute only applies to employers with 15 or more workers, but many states have enacted laws that lower the minimum requirement to one worker.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1991. This law expanded the definition of employment discrimination and allows courts to award compensatory and punitive damages for victims.
  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963. Prohibits employers from paying workers doing essentially the same job different wages based solely on gender.
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Enacted in 1967, this law prohibits discrimination on the basis of age for workers age 40 and older.
  • The Pregnancy Discrimination Act. This law, enacted in 1975, prohibits discrimination against an employee or applicant because she is pregnant.
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act. This 1986 law requires employers to certify that their workers are U.S. citizens or have permits that allow them to work in this country. At the same time, it prohibits a potential employer from asking an applicant about his or her immigration status before a conditional hire.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act. First enacted in 1991, among the effects of this wide-reaching law is the banning of discrimination against physically or mentally disabled employees or applicants who are able to perform a job’s essential functions. New as of July 1994: Companies with 25 employees or more are covered by ADS. Previously, only companies with more than 50 workers fell under the ADA’s jurisdiction.

With all these rules, how are you going to be able to hire who you want for the job? From the start, you must understand and document a position’s essential functions and specific duties. All subsequent actions – such as enforcement – must be based on those factors alone.

With documented job functions, you can successfully defend yourself against a discrimination suit. Without this documentation, you leave yourself wide open with no defense.

Write Accurate Job Descriptions to Win Lawsuits

You should have a file with the job descriptions of all positions at your company. Job descriptions are the first items the courts examine to determine the legitimacy of a discrimination charge. In addition, these documents are useful for your company in salary administration, performance appraisal, recruiting and hiring and job training.

For this to work, you must have your job descriptions defined before listing your first help wanted ad and before you started interviewing. As you can see, this is really important to implement for your business and to make sure the descriptions are accurate.

Before you place any new ads or interview for new or replacement positions, review your job descriptions to ensure they are still valid and accurate.

The best way to validate the job descriptions for existing positions is to talk to the people doing the work. Have them review the current descriptions and provide you with any updates they deem necessary.


If an applicant ever levels discrimination charges against you, especially under the Americans with Disabilities Act – the courts will look at what you identified as the essential functions of the job to see if the charges have merit. If you don’t have a job description, someone else may get to decide what the essential functions are.

To ensure you are compliant, always review your help wanted and interview materials before you proceed to make sure you aren’t violating any laws. This includes any new laws that have been passed.

If you want to learn more about starting a house cleaning business, check out our comprehensive guide on starting a successful house cleaning business. We cover everything you need to know to start and run a thriving cleaning service.

Join us in the House Cleaning Business Mastermind, if you haven’t already!

By Anne-Marie

I'm Anne-Marie, the House Cleaning Pro. When I planned to build a house cleaning business, I knew I didn't want to be stuck doing all the work myself. I had much bigger plans, like 1) Building up the business to compete with the franchises in my city 2) Training employees to do the dirty work and 3) Having the ability to sell the business when the time was right. Discover how you can achieve your goals when you start a house cleaning business for maximum profits!