Domestic workers get labor protections under new law

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Gov. David Paterson signed into law today a bill that provides a number of rights to domestic workers, such as nannies, housekeepers and elderly caregivers. It provides a number of legal protections that most other workers in the United States have and is the first such legislation in the country, according to Domestic Workers United.

“Today we correct an historic injustice by granting those who care for the elderly, raise our children and clean our homes the same essential rights to which all workers should be entitled,” Oaterson said in a statement. “I am grateful to the sponsors for their extraordinary efforts to enact this landmark bill, and most of all to those domestic workers who dreamed, planned, organized and then fought for many years, until they were able to see an injustice undone.”

Domestic workers, who number more than 200,000 in the state, have been pushing to get legislation passed for six years. Domestic Workers United said members often work more than 10 hours a day, have been subject to verbal abuse and have been fired without receiving notice or any severance pay.

Under the law, domestic workers are guaranteed at least one day off per week, or overtime pay if it is waived; three paid vacation annually after one year of work; time-and-a-half pay after 40 hours of work in a week, or 44 hours for in-home workers; and disability benefits. Domestic workers will no longer be exempt from the Human Rights Law, and a special cause of action for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment will be created.

“With the signing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, we will dramatically improve the lives of those who care for our children, our seniors and our homes, those who make all other work possible. More importantly, it sends a clear message to the rest of the country that domestic workers are indeed employees, and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity,” Sen. Diane Savino, D-Staten Island, said in a statement.

The state labor commissioner is required to do a study on the practicality of extending collective-bargaining rights to domestic workers.

“The day is finally here,” Barbara Young, a nanny in Manhattan, said in a statement.  “When I think about all the domestic workers who worked without recognition for so many years, I am so proud of what we accomplished.  Caring for children means so much to me and to the future. Those of us who do this work deserve dignity and respect.”

The law does not require employers to provide health insurance to domestic workers.

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