Governor Paterson Signs Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

ALBANY, NY (08/31/2010)(readMedia)-- Governor David A. Paterson today signed into law a landmark bill to grant workplace protections to domestic workers, the first such law to be enacted in the nation. Domestic workers had been excluded from many of the rights granted to other employees by legislation enacted in the past.

"Today we correct an historic injustice by granting those who care for the elderly, raise our children and clean our homes the same essential rights to which all workers should be entitled," Governor Paterson said. "I am grateful to the sponsors for their extraordinary efforts to enact this landmark bill, and most of all to those domestic workers who dreamed, planned, organized and then fought for many years, until they were able to see an injustice undone."

This legislation was a result of an agreement between the Governor and the Legislature and will serve as a protection for domestic workers against potential abuse and mistreatment. In addition, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will help ensure that domestic workers are provided with industry-specific protections and labor standards.

Among other provisions, this bill provides for:

• The right to overtime pay at time and a half after 40 hours of work in a week, or 44 hours for in-home workers;

• A day of rest every seven days, or overtime pay if it is waived;

• Three paid days of rest annually after one year of work;

• The removal of the domestic workers exemption from the Human Rights Law, and the creation of a special cause of action for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment;

• The extension of statutory disability benefits to domestic workers, to the same degree as other workers; and

• A study by the Commissioner of Labor on the practicality of extending collective bargaining rights to domestic workers.

Governor Paterson added: "I understand that similar legislation is now being considered in California. I profoundly hope that New York's efforts in this area will serve as a national model, and remove the exclusions which have wrongly applied to this class of workers for too long."


The following statements were provided in support of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights:

Congressman Charles B. Rangel said: "I want to thank Governor Paterson, Assemblymen Keith Wright, and the other members of the New York State Legislature for passing this important measure. Today is a victory in the continuing struggle of the American worker. For too long, New York State's domestic workers have had to work in the shadows, putting in the hard work and long hours that so many employees do in other industries without getting the protections that for so many are routine. I can't think of a more fitting way to get an early start to celebrating Labor Day than the signing of this bill into law."

Senate Majority Conference Leader John L. Sampson said: "Domestic workers are a vital contributor, helping fuel New York's economy, but for too long they have been denied the basic protections they deserve. New York is once again taking its place as a national leader in protecting workers' rights by ensuring fair labor standards are finally afforded to domestic workers. I thank Governor Paterson for his leadership, and applaud Senator Diane Savino for her tireless pursuit of justice."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said: "The Domestic Workers bill of rights will bring dignity, respect and long overdue legal protections to essential care givers across this State. This historic day is possible thanks to the hard work of bill sponsor Assemblyman Keith Wright and Labor Committee Chair Susan John. I commend the members of Domestic Workers United for their tireless efforts to raise awareness and focus public attention on the needs of this often invisible workforce. This bill rights a wrong that began when domestic workers were excluded from the labor protections created by the New Deal and brings us one step closer to our goal of dignity and fairness for all workers across this State."

Senator Diane J. Savino said: "Today New York State is again making history in passing legislation to protect working families. We were the first to establish child labor laws, minimum wage laws, and workplace protections in sweatshops. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a former New York State Senator himself, signed the National Labor Relations Act, legislation that gave us the basic labor protections that we all enjoy, but which unfortunately excluded domestic workers. Since then they have toiled without any rights whatsoever. That changes today. With the signing of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, we will dramatically improve the lives of those who care for our children, our seniors and our homes, those who make all other work possible. More importantly, it sends a clear message to the rest of the country that domestic workers are indeed employees, and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity."

Assemblyman Keith Wright said: "Although today is a day of celebration, we must remember that for far too long domestic workers have labored tirelessly without the labor protections available to almost every other group of workers throughout New York State. I applaud the tenacity of all of the domestic workers who lobbied, advocated and rallied for this legislation for many, many years and helped our State pass the laws necessary to protect all people who reside within it. In 2009, Governor Paterson promised to sign this bill once it was passed by the State legislature and today we see that promise kept. It is a great day for New York State and my sincerest gratitude goes out to all who helped turn this legislative dream into a chaptered reality."


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