Although The National Labor Relations Act became law in 1935, it did not protect the rights of domestic workers employed in the United States. Because of that oversight, housekeepers, caregivers, cooks, and nannies began a grassroots campaign to push forward new legislation that would protect all domestic workers. In 2010, New York became the first state to pass the law, with other states following suit.
Individuals who are considered domestic workers work full time as in-home daycare providers, elder-care workers, nannies, housecleaners, gardeners, butlers, cooks, and personal attendants. Personal attendants are those who care for disabled individuals, seniors, or children and do not spend 20 percent or more of their time doing non-caretaking duties. They may be live-ins or may reside at their own homes. Domestic workers work in private homes and are employed by families, individuals, or agencies.
New York’s Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers
In New York, a domestic worker is classified as a person who works full time in the private home of someone not related to him or her. New York was the first state to adopt a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. This law protects workers in several ways, such as:
- Employees who live off-site must be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours per week. If workers live within the home where they are employed, they may work 44 hours before being granted overtime.
- Workers must be paid every week, in an amount no less than minimum wage.
- An employer cannot deduct money from a domestic worker’s paycheck without his or her written permission.
- Employers must keep payroll records and notify workers in writing about vacation days, sick days, and schedules.
- A worker cannot be harassed due to his or her race, gender, religion, sexual preference, or national origin.
- Employers cannot make unwanted sexual advances to their domestic employees.
Hawaii Becomes the Second State to Pass Bill
Hawaii followed New York’s example and adopted a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights three years later. In July 2013, the Hawaiian governor signed the bill to protect the rights of care attendants, cooks, butlers, nannies, housekeepers, and other workers who are employed by private individuals or families within their homes. According to the law, it also became illegal to discriminate against these workers for reasons such as race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or country of origin.
California Becomes the Third State to Adopt Law
California became state number-three to get on the bandwagon to support domestic workers’ rights. This state’s bill began its process in 2012 and after a few hurdles, such as being vetoed by the governor, it was finally signed as a law in September 2013. By January 2014, the law was on the books and in full effect. In California’s version of the bill, domestic workers are due overtime pay if they work over nine hours in a day or 45 hours in one week.
Progress Continues in Other States
After the first three states signed bills to protect their domestic workers, others followed suit by initiating or adopting their own laws. Some examples are:
- Massachusetts: In July 2014, the governor of Massachusetts signed one of the most progressive-thinking bills to date. This law gives protection to both employers and employees by requiring written contracts, 30 days of notice for employment termination, and maternity leave.
- Oregon: Domestic workers are protected from abuse and mistreatment thanks to Oregon’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Many in this state consider this law to be a correction to the omission of basic labor laws that were already given to other workers in the state.
- Connecticut: The governor of Connecticut signed this state’s bill of rights to protect domestic workers in July 2015.Domestic workers play critical roles in many states’ economies. Each state’s Domestic Bill of Rights helps to protect both the workers and their employers across the nation.
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