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California passes law for domestic workers

On Sept. 26, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law that will give household workers more rights as employees, making California the third state in the country to pass a bill of rights for domestic workers. The California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights requires that housekeepers, child care providers and caregivers are paid overtime when they work for more than nine hours in a day or more than forty-five hours in a week.

The Assemblyman who wrote the bill wanted to ensure that domestic workers, who are primarily women of color and with various national origins, were provided the same treatment as other employees. An estimated 200,000 workers will be affected by the bill.

Governor Brown vetoed a similar, slightly broader version of the bill last year. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights differs from the 2012 version in that it does not make allowances for meal and rest breaks, and it does not cover part-time babysitters. The President of the SEIU United Long Term Care Workers believes that financial issues were also an obstacle to the governor endorsing a workers' rights law in 2012; the president of the group says that the passage of a proposition to raise taxes generated more revenue, giving the governor more leeway to focus on other issues.

Laws that extend employment rights to household workers can be harder to implement than laws protecting employees in an established company or workplace. Nonetheless, the activists who worked to get this law into place are optimistic about the effect that it will have on domestic workers. Both a domestic workers employers' group and workers rights activists celebrated the governor's action as a positive step in California employment law.

Source: The Nation, "California Governor Signs Domestic Worker Bill of Rights", Laura Flanders, September 26, 2013

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