Senate Bill of Rights Protects Domestic Workers

Submitted by State Senator Michael Barrett

Mike-Barrett-logoThe State Senate has passed a Bill of Rights for housekeepers, nannies, cooks and others who work inside people’s homes.  The legislation sets labor standards and workplace protections.

Dozens of domestic workers, many of whom are immigrants, recently testified at the State House on their working conditions.  Some described working long hours, cleaning as many as 14 houses per day, but still struggling to make ends meet.  Others detailed physical abuse.

The legislation clarifies that domestic workers are eligible for government services and benefits, including unemployment insurance, workers compensation and minimum wage protections.  The bill also establishes standards for rest periods.  An employee who works at least 40 hours per week must be provided at least one full 24-hour rest period every calendar week.

“A key part of the bill is outreach to make sure domestic workers know their rights,” said area legislator Mike Barrett, Senate Chair of the Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.

The Attorney General’s office will work with the executive branch to develop a multilingual outreach program to inform employees hired to work in the home of their rights.  The AG’s office is also tasked with enforcement.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is given jurisdiction over domestic workers and personal care attendants for harassment claims.

Under the bill, full-time female employees are entitled to at least eight weeks of maternity leave.  Nationwide, 95% of domestic workers are women, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

To increase privacy safeguards, the legislation prevents employers from interfering with a worker’s personal communication.

The bill, which received bi-partisan support, lays out protections for the 67,000 domestic workers statewide.  California, New York and Hawaii have recently passed similar measures.

This bill now goes to the House for consideration.


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