Over 9,000 domestic workers provide essential care in Washington DC. They keep our homes clean, they help raise our children and ensure that our older relatives and loved ones with disabilities are well cared for. Yet they are extremely vulnerable to wage theft, workplace harassment and other abuses on the job. In Washington DC, domestic workers are the only group of workers excluded from the protections of the city’s Human Rights Act.

Domestic workers in DC need a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to be able to work with safety and dignity. 

Hear in their own words why a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is urgently needed.


I am a nanny, I live in ward 3, I previously lived in ward 8, and I work in ward 2. I care for three children: a six-year-old boy, a four year old girl, and a one-year old boy. I have worked for my current employer for 10 years.

During the pandemic, I saw so many fellow domestic workers risking their lives without any guarantee that they would not be fired. I know many domestic workers who do not raise their voices out of fear of losing their jobs. A domestic worker that I know, named Lucy, was recently fired with the usage of discriminatory words and physical abuse, all because she demanded her rights. Lucy worked overtime and her only crime was asking for fair pay. Over the past few years, I have seen so many domestic workers work for less than minimum wage and work longer hours than they should. Many domestic workers stay in abusive jobs out of fear and because they have nowhere else to turn. Although I have the opportunity to work for a just family, our work experiences should not depend on striking good luck and finding good employers.

I was surprised to learn that as a domestic worker I am excluded from many basic worker protections in Washington DC. I take care of the most precious part of people’s lives, their children, and I should be included in accessing those basic protections. If the DC Domestic Worker Bill of Rights legislation is passed, the bill would change my life and the lives of my fellow colleagues, many of whom have suffered abuse.



I live in Northeast Washington DC and I have worked in home care for the past 8 years, ever since I arrived to this country. I am an immigrant from Cameron, I came here in 2013.

Home care was the most accessible work to do when I immigrated here. I do this job because I like taking care of elderly people, and I’m proud that I get to help others. We do everything for our clients: help them go to the bathroom, feed them, cook food, clean them, do their nails, brush their hair.

There is a shortage of workers because they don’t care for the workers. We often have to do more than we are supposed to. For example, we care for everyone in the house even if we were hired to care for just one person, or we also have to clean the dishes and clean the house, but if we speak up, it is a problem. Throughout the pandemic the only supplies my employer has given me are two disposable masks every two weeks. They give us two masks when we pick up each paycheck. Since the pandemic started, I have been buying my own supplies. Last summer I got COVID, most likely from a client. Hiring agents do not inform us of our rights. It would be helpful to have community organizations that help educate domestic workers about their rights.



My name is Francisca Alvarez, I arrived to the United States from the Dominican Republic 28 years ago. I have always lived in the DMV area and I have worked in many different wards of Washington DC, including ward 6, where I worked for years, first cleaning houses and later as a nanny. I love my work taking care of children for many reasons. I have been able to develop my skills with infants, teaching them something new every day. We as domestic workers contribute to the emotional and intellectual development of the children, who are the future of this great nation.

This work is very hard and a great responsibility. We hold in our hands the most precious treasures of each family we work for, we come to care for and love these children as if they were our own. Many families are great and value our work, but unfortunately there are people who do not value care and cleaning work. We have been stigmatized in society, this is reflected in the laws of this country, and Washington DC, is no exception.

I always negotiated a contract, but since it is not the law, sometimes we have to fight so that both parties agree to sign it and respect them. When we clean houses it is almost impossible to have a contract, but cleaners need a contract – just like any other worker – to have a clear agreement on things like: when will they be paid, how much we will be paid and what are our responsibilities. Many times, employers increase our work without even asking, they just give the order.



My name is Elsy and I arrived from Honduras 16 years ago, and I have lived in the DMV area ever since. During these 16 years I have worked as a house cleaner and as a babysitter.

I love taking care of children in this job because I have been able to develop my profession. In my home country, I studied pedagogy and I can teach and take care of the children who will be our future. I like cleaning houses because I am good at doing this and it makes the lives of those who we care for easier to live in clean and organized environments.

Many families value our work but unfortunately I have also had to deal with many offensive things and hardships. About 2 years ago, when I was looking for work, a family for whom I was going to work summoned me to the interview in person, when they saw me they said: “I thought you were from this country, I don't want foreign Latino people, thanks for coming, but no you will work for us, it is not what we are looking for.”

I felt so bad, no one had ever made me feel like being Latina was a crime, I left that conversation wondering how it is possible for this to happen. The prospective employer asked me to go to his house, even after hearing my accent on the phone. I felt discriminated against because of my ethnicity and I keep wondering why domestic workers are excluded from protection against discrimination in the human rights law in the city of Washington DC.


Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault

I am a ward 4 resident and have been a domestic worker for 38 years, ever since I arrived to the United States at the age of 16. I have worked as a house cleaner and as a nanny. When I was younger, I had a traumatizing experience of sexual harassment at work. One day at work, I was sexually assaulted which caused me to flee from Washington DC to Houston, Texas. I became pregnant as a result of the rape and gave birth to a premature baby girl (5.5 months of gestation), because of the stress and trauma that I suffered both as a victim of assult, but also because I was unemployed and had no support. My baby survived and is now a 30 year-old young woman. I share my story knowing that there are other domestic workers, working in people’s homes who are subjected to similar violations and are too afraid to report it. I am shocked to know that the DC Human Rights Law doesn’t protect domestic workers. The law has to be changed to ensure that all workers are covered under the law. I have never spoken much about my experience, as I didnt know what to do. Looking back, I am upset that I did not speak up or report it. This experience definitely continued to affect my future work and sense of safety.


I arrived in the United States from South America to be an au pair in Washington DC in 2019. I was 24 years old and my heart was full of hopes to work and study in the United States. I had worked very hard to make that experience happen, but life had a surprise for me. In the first family, located in ward 4, the children treated me very rudely and often bullied me for my accent in English. The parents never offered me food, much less asked if I wanted any food from the store. It seemed that I did not exist, they ignored me and did not treat me as a person. More than once, my employer insulted me, using terms like stupid or saying that I didn’t deserve to be in the United States. I felt that I experienced discrimination because of my race, gender, class and nationality. When I reported to my supervisor, she minimized the abuses and didn't intervene or mediate any of the issues that I reported to her. I also found out that bosses were spying on me on the phone. Having my privacy invaded, I felt in an insecure and unprotected space. Due to all the disrespects, I decided to have a replacement and go for a second family.

In the Au Pair program, I should have received adequate treatment and have my rights respected, but the reality was the opposite even in the second family. They were located in ward 3 of the District I had an even more traumatic experience. At first, they treated me with apparent respect, however they were always ordering me to do more than the childcare duties described by the State Department. For example, I used to work more than 45 hours a week, take the dog for walks, do hard cleaning and cook for the entire family, among other errands. When I couldn't do it anymore, because I was extremely tired, they began to treat me badly. In this household I could not rest in my off time, they were constantly disturbing me asking for favors or making loud noises during very early morning and late night. In my last weeks with them I also suffered wage theft. Again, my supervisor never intervened in the situation. That was very sad and painfull and even more difficult because all this happened to me in the middle of a pandemic.

Despite the difficulty in terms of relationships with families, I enjoyed being with the children, caring for and educating them on a daily basis. This is my passion, and I have been very dedicated to my profession of childcare provider. Finally, I had the opportunity to have a better experience in my second year in the program in another state of the United States, a family that respected my rights.

During my time in DC, I felt the injustice that exists for domestic workers in the US. We are excluded from local and federal work laws. I really think and believe that our work should have labor protections by the state, because unfortunately there are many employers who don’t respect us. With local legislation we will be able to claim our rights.

I cannot give my name for fear of retaliation. Unfortunately, these experiences left me with traumas from which I am still recovering.

I hope that my testimony raises awareness among the council members of Washington DC. I hope my story shows that au pairs are especially vulnerable and need to be included in protections under DC law, just like all other domestic workers. I would love to know that young Au Pairs in the capital of the country have protections and better working conditions.

Au Pair, Anonymous

Support the DC Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

Find out more about the DC Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, see our campaign updates, and support our work.