After years of campaigning and grassroots efforts by domestic workers and allies alike, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights (AB 241) into law on September 26. California is now the third state to have a bill of rights for domestic workers, after New York and Hawaii.
Thank you to the Care2 members who signed our petition, helping make this possible.
Once implemented, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will provide employees vital protections in their respective workplaces.
Firstly, the bill will regulate the hours of work of certain domestic work employees and provide an overtime compensation rate for those employees. Previously, it was not illegal for employers to deny overtime pay for house cleaners and caregivers, regardless of how many additional hours they worked beyond their regular schedule. Hourly wage protection is particularly significant in that it will help ensure fair treatment for these workers, who are often women of color and in some cases recent immigrants who do not have a complete grasp of their employer’s language.
Secondly, the bill will clearly define the scope of domestic work services, including childcare providers, caregivers of elderly persons, housekeepers and other household occupations. By providing these kinds of definitions, labor standards will be clarified to the benefit of current and future domestic workers.
Although the passage of AB 241 is an important step forward, several other protections for California domestic workers were lost during the legislative process. Earlier versions of the bill, as introduced by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, outlined standards for meal and rest breaks, sleeping periods and paid vacation for individuals employed for over a year in the same private household. Unfortunately, none of these rights were included in the final version of the bill.
Domestic workers are not unfamiliar with having their rights ignored completely, however. A similar bill to AB 241 was vetoed last session. Nationally, domestic workers must fight for protection state by state because they were specifically excluded from the Fair Labor Standards Act due to lobbying efforts by Southern Democrats in Congress at the time. The FLSA has since expanded its minimum wage and overtime protections to domestic workers, although they continue to lack complete coverage.
Despite these shortcomings, the passage of AB 241 is an important success for domestic workers. This legislature will benefit workers whose rights have previously been ignored and sets an example for the rest of the nation in providing essential protections for employees.
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