New York Passes First Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

On August 31, 2010, New York domestic workers celebrated a groundbreaking victory: the passage of the historic Domestic Workers’ (change to Workers) Bill of Rights in the entire country. It requires that privately employed domestic workers receive holiday, sick, vacation and overtime wages, regardless of an employee’s immigration status. Similar measures are being considered in California and Colorado.

“This is the first legislation in the United States to give basic rights and protections to domestic workers and will cover New York’s 200,000 domestic workers, including nannies, elderly caregivers and housekeepers. The new law requires that private employers provide overtime pay for domestic workers, one day off a week, three days paid leave annually after one year and inclusion in disability benefits laws regardless of immigration status. Similar measures are being considered in California and Colorado.

This victory demonstrates the crucial role that research plays in organizing, at the grassroots level, for broad policy change. In 2004, the Domestic Workers United in partnership with DataCenter published Home is Where the Work Is: Inside New York’s Domestic Work Industry. This seminal study helped pave the way for the bill’s passage and continues to be one of the most authoritative sources of data on this largely invisible and vulnerable workforce. The study also showed how domestic workers can use their own experiential data and be recognized as genuine policymaking experts, heralding a change in the domestic industry as a whole.