Massachusetts Bill of Rights

July 2014 — Victory! Governor Deval Patrick signed the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights into law, the fourth state in as many years. The Massachusetts Bill is the most forward-thinking bill of rights to date and sets the stage for even more comprehensive legislation in other states. The bill will protect workers and employers by requiring clear guidelines for employers and workers including: a written contract; 30 days notice of termination for live-in workers; and maternity leave for workers, among other protections. Congratulations, Massachusetts!

Domestic workers keep the Massachusetts economy going by making other work possible. Nannies, caregivers, and housekeepers in the state ensure the health and prosperity of Massachusetts families and free others to participate in the workforce. But because there are few state and federal guidelines and no industry standards, domestic workers are extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

THE PROBLEM

  • Historic exclusion from basic state and federal labor rights
  • Long hours, low pay, and no benefits
  • Vulnerability to abuse and mistreatment and isolation from the workforce
  • A workplace without protections against unsafe working conditions, discrimination, and sexual harassment

Domestic workers have been viewed as outside of the traditional workforce, largely because most domestic workers are women, often immigrants, doing the work historically done by housewives and servants. Due to the nature of domestic work, they are isolated from the rest of the workforce and subjected to round-the-clock physically demanding labor, with little or no separation between work and personal time. As a result of the lack of state and federal regulation, domestic workers are often taken advantage of by their employers and are in dire need of protection.

THE SOLUTION: THE DOMESTIC WORKERS’ BILL OF RIGHTS!

  • For Workers: Establishes labor standards that protect domestic workers’ basic workplace rights, including meal and rest breaks, clarity on what constitutes working time, sick time to care for themselves and their families, and freedom from discrimination and sexual harassment.
  • For Employers: Ensures that employers receive the highest quality of care for their families and homes by affording domestic workers dignity and respect. Reduces turnover by providing greater stability for workers, and improves the health and safety of employers and their families by protecting domestic workers’ health.
  • For the Commonwealth: Provides domestic workers with safe and dignified work environments and employers with clear guidelines on their responsibilities that will bring domestic workers out of the shadows. Protecting domestic workers also protects the safety of our communities, ensures the health and well-being of the families of domestic workers, and strengthens the state economy by freeing up more individuals to participate in the paid workforce.

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights amends Massachusetts state labor law to guarantee basic work standards and protections: 24 hours off per 7-day calendar week; meal and rest breaks; limited vacation and sick days; parental leave; protection from discrimination, sexual harassment, illegal charges for food and lodging, and eviction without notice; notice of termination; and a means of enforcing these standards. Domestic employers under the bill do not include state regulated staffing agencies or the employers of those who work as casual babysitters.

The MA Coalition for Domestic Workers is represented by Monica Halas at Greater Boston Legal Services.