Senate Passes Bill to Protect Domestic Workers

by | May 9, 2014

BOSTON – The Senate on Thursday, May 8 unanimously passed a bill to establish a bill of rights for domestic workers, establishing clear labor standards and protections in the workplace, Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced.

“Today, the Senate took action to provide domestic workers in the Commonwealth, who are traditionally an overlooked and underserved population, with the same rights and protections already extended to other workers in Massachusetts,” Senator Moore said. “This bill takes necessary steps to establish these standards and help eliminate the potential for abuse in the workplace.”

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, like unemployment insurance, workers compensation and minimum wage protections.

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

To increase protections for domestic workers, the bill includes a privacy right 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.