California Passes Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, Sort Of

<a href="https://twitter.com/JerryBrownGov/status/383317335567659008/photo/1">Calif. Governor's Office</a>/Twitter

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law the California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights yesterday, making California only the third state in the country to adopt such legislation. But despite its celebration as a policy victory by advocates, the law might more aptly be called the California Domestic Worker Bill of Right, after it was watered down to only include overtime protections.

The law now reads that a domestic work employee “shall not be employed more than nine hours in any workday or more than 45 hours in any workweek unless the employee receives one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay” for all overtime hours worked. Hour protections are, without a doubt, an important gain for domestic workers, who “are prone to be overworked on a weekly and daily basis,” according to Sarah Leberstein, an attorney at the National Employment Law Project.

But lost in the legislative process were a number of protections, including:

  • the right of live-in employees to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep;
  • the right of live-in employees to “adequate, decent, and sanitary” sleeping accommodations;
  • the right to meal and rest breaks;
  • and the right to paid days of rest after one year of work with an employer.

(The signed bill also includes a sunset, stipulating that a committee reviews the bill before January 2017.)

Even though the California bill doesn’t measure up to, say, New York’s 2010 bill of rights—which provides paid days of rest and protections for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment—Leberstein argues that it is still an important symbolic win: “It shows that domestic workers are on a roll, that there’s growing recognition that this work is really crucial and absolutely needs the basic protections that other workers have. It shows that there’s momentum.”

Don’t get us wrong: Overtime pay is huge. It just doesn’t go far enough.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate