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Senate Passes Bill to Protect Domestic Workers

May 8, 2014

The Senate today unanimously passed legislation to create a bill of rights for domestic workers, establishing clear labor standards and protections in the workplace, Senator Karen Spilka announced.

“There are over 67,000 domestic workers across the Commonwealth, balancing the care and maintenance of other people’s homes and families with the care of their own,” Senator Spilka said. “This bill guarantees basic human rights, workplace protections and dignity for these workers, who are the backbone of our economy.”

The bill defines domestic workers as individuals who do any of the following work: housekeeping, home management, nanny services, caretaking, laundering, cooking and providing home companion services. It also clarifies that domestic workers are eligible for government services and benefits, including unemployment insurance, workers compensation and minimum wage protections.

This bill establishes clear rules for sleeping, meal and rest periods and requires that female domestic workers receive at least 8 weeks of maternity leave if they are full-time employees.

To increase protections for domestic workers, the bill includes the right to privacy, to prevent employers from interfering with a worker’s personal communication and effects, as well as housing protections in the event that a worker is terminated without cause. Domestic workers who work less than 16 hours per week are also protected from employer retaliation for making a wage complaint.

In addition, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is given jurisdiction over domestic workers and personal care attendants for sexual or other harassment claims. The Attorney General’s office is tasked with enforcing this domestic workers’ bill of rights, providing resources on its website for employers along with working with the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development to develop a multilingual outreach program to inform domestic workers about their rights and responsibilities.

This bill will now be sent back to the House.

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