NY Governor Paterson Signs Domestic Worker Rights Bill

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New York Gov. David Paterson on Tuesday signed into law the first extensive domestic workers’ rights measure in the nation, which he said will correct historic injustices.

“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,” Paterson said.

The measure will guarantee overtime pay for domestic workers, as well as time off and protections against sexual harassment.
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An estimated 200,000 people are domestic workers in New York City. An advocacy group says there are frequent reports of verbal or physical abuse by employers, and two-thirds of the workers said they never received overtime pay. There are an additional 60,000 to 70,000 domestic workers statewide, many of whom are female immigrants.

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“The day is finally here,” said Barbara Young, a Manhattan nanny speaking on behalf of Domestic Workers United, an organization of nannies, housekeepers and care providers for the elderly. “When I think about all the domestic workers who worked without recognition for so many years, I am so proud of what we accomplished. Caring for children means so much to me and to the future. Those of us who do this work deserve dignity and respect.”

The law requires overtime pay for nannies, housekeepers and companions to the sick and elderly after they work 40 hours in a week, or 44 hours for those who live in their employers’ homes. The domestic workers will get at least 24 consecutive hours off each week and, after they are on the job a year, three paid days off annually. The bill’s sponsors said it subjects employers to state law for complaints of unwelcome sexual advances and also applies New York’s minimum-wage provisions.

The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, the same as the state’s, already applies. The law will take effect 90 days after signing, providing time to notify employers.

Overtime would be paid at 1.5 times a worker’s normal wage rate. The bill passed the Assembly 89-38 and the Senate 35-26 on Thursday.

The law calls for the state Labor Department to study working conditions and the feasibility of collective bargaining and report back by Nov. 1.

The legislation excludes casual workers like occasional house cleaners and baby sitters, relatives and those working for outside agencies or providing services through government programs.

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