June 22, 2009

Assembly Passes Legislation To Afford Essential Labor Protections To Domestic Workers

Measure Would Improve Working Conditions for Housekeepers, Nannies, Caregivers

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Social Services Committee Chair Keith L. T. Wright today announced the passage of legislation (A.1470-A/Wright) that would establish clear labor standards for domestic workers in New York, affording them an eight-hour workday, temporary disability insurance coverage and overtime pay while providing the legal right to one day of rest each week.

The measure seeks to address legal shortfalls that have allowed for the overwork and exploitation of workers employed as nannies, housekeepers and companions for the elderly by granting labor protections afforded other types of workers. Under the legislation domestic workers would be included under the state Labor Relations Act, permitting them the right to collective bargaining.

"Typically, domestic workers are immigrants who have come to this country to have a better chance to make a decent living," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "They are an essential part of the workforce, particularly in New York City. Domestic workers carry out thankless work; watching children, cleaning homes and providing care for the elderly. Currently, they are afforded few of the occupational protections that we take for granted such as the right to an eight-hour work day and a day off each week. This bill will help to address the inadequacies that have unfortunately made domestic workers a second class segment of our workforce."

"This is an important first step, but much work needs to be done to ensure that the more than 200,000 nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in this state are guaranteed the rights other occupations enjoy," said Wright (D-Manhattan). "We are at the beginning of a struggle that will help ensure parity and equity for those who for years have been underpaid, underappreciated and in some circumstances, grossly exploited without sufficient legal recourse."

The legislation would require the state Department of Labor to provide a report to the Legislature by the end of 2010 detailing the practicality of granting domestic workers the right to employee benefits afforded to workers in other industries. The bill would also establish an interagency task force with representation from the state departments of labor, insurance and health and the workers compensation board to provide informational materials to employers and domestic workers.