Domestic Workers Fight for Satisfactory Working Conditions

By Heather Lothrop

Currently, only New York State has legislation that requires domestic workers to be given meal breaks, paid for overtime, paid rest days, and protection against racial and sexual harassment. While these rights are expected in most professions, domestic workers often do not receive these protections from their employers. The employers are not required by law to maintain good working conditions and so, many of them do not. Domestic workers were purposefully excluded from receiving protection under the National Labor Relations Board, meaning that unlike most employees, domestic workers can face terrible work environments without being able to turn to the NRLB for redress. Some employers refuse to give domestic workers breaks throughout the day, and refuse to pay the domestic workers when they put in extra hours. In theory, domestic workers could simply quit. The problem is that the next job does not ensure better standards without a legal enforcement mechanism. Additionally, many domestic workers cannot afford to lose the work. Many of the domestic workers are undocumented workers which puts them even more at risk for horrific working conditions. Last week, 200 hundred people protested outside of the Governor of California’s office asking that he sign this bill giving rights to domestic workers, instead of vetoing the bill which has been done three times before. The protesters’ message is clear, domestic workers will continue to be denied their basic labor rights unless the states take legislative action to protect the overlooked workers.

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