Hawaii Becomes Second State To Pass A Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights

On Tuesday, both houses of Hawaii’s state legislature passed a bill that grants domestic workers basic labor rights:

The bill passed the House and Senate on Tuesday with little opposition in the heavily Democratic chambers. It covers cooks, waiters, butlers, housekeepers and other workers, including babysitters in some cases.

The bill makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone employed as a domestic worker based on race, gender, sexual orientation and other factors.

The bill also brings them under the protection of the state’s wage and hour laws. It now heads to Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s (D) desk. If he signs it into law, Hawaii will join New York as the only two states with laws on the books to grant domestic workers basic worker protections. The Illinois Senate’s labor committee is also set to vote on the state’s proposed bill of rights this week, and California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, and Ohio are expected to consider similar measures soon.

Domestic workers inhabit a booming industry, but one that offers little pay and is rife with abuse. A survey by the National Domestic Workers Alliance found that 20 percent of housekeepers and nearly a third of nannies and caregivers make less than the minimum wage. In fact, nearly three-quarters of the domestic workforce is paid less than $13 an hour. Forty percent of nannies and caregivers work more than 40 hours, yet 85 percent aren’t guaranteed overtime pay. About 20 percent of domestic workers report being threatened, insulted, or verbally abused by their employers, a figure that rises to 36 percent for live-in workers, yet they have little recourse to report and address abuse.

New York’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights addressed all of these issues by affirming the right to be paid a minimum wage and granting the right to overtime pay at time-and-a-half over 40 hours, protection for workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment, and earned paid days off.