California is attempting to follow in the footsteps of states such as New York and guarantee Domestic Workers basic labor protections, including overtime pay, meal and rest breaks and adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers. A.B. 889, 2011-2012 Cal. St. Assemb. Reg. Sess. (Ca. 2012).
In 2011 the New York Legislature passed a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Law which provided overtime pay, mandated days of rest, three paid rest days and coverage under the New York State Human Rights law. See N.Y. Dep’t of Labor, Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, available at http://www.labor.ny.gov/legal/domestic-workers-bill-of-rights.shtm.
Since the New Deal, domestic workers such as housekeepers, chauffeurs, cooks, full-time babysitters, home health aids, causal babysitters and companion workers, have been denied basic minimum wage, overtime, and collective bargaining protections afforded to other workers under federal laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). See Daniela Kraiem, Consumer Direction in Medicaid Long Term Care: Autonomy, Commodification of Family Labor, and Community Resilience, 19 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 686-687 (2011), available at http://digitalcommons.wcl.american.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1518&context=jgspl; Nat’l Employment Law Project, End the DOL Exclusion of Home Care Workers from Minimum Wage and Overtime, available at http://www.nelp.org/page/Justice/EndExclusionofHomeCareWorkersfromMinimumWage.pdf; UCLA Inst. for Research on Labor & Emp’t, Why a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights? (Dec. 2010), available at http://www.domesticworkers.org/component/jdownloads/finish/3/12/0.
These exemptions are explained by Daniela Kraiem in her article Consumer Direction in Medicaid Long Term Care: Autonomy, Commodification of Family Labor, and Community Resilience: “In the past there was a perception that domestic work was temporary, easy, and less dangerous than other types of female employment, especially for white women who worked only until marriage. Popular perception placed white domestics safely inside the private sphere of the household, rather than in the rough and tumble public sphere of the market. On the other hand, when domestic workers are not white, they are perceived as too far outside of the regularized workforce to merit full labor and employment protection.” 19 Am. U. J. Gender Soc. Pol’y & L. 686.
This Act is a giant step forward for the protection of these vulnerable workers and more states should follow in-suit.
Advocacy information can be found at the National Domestic Workers Alliance’s website at: http://www.domesticworkers.org/ca-bill-of-rights/.