Nannies and Domestic Workers to Get Protections Under Bill Passed by State Lawmakers

By DNAinfo Staff on June 3, 2010 8:57am  | Updated on June 3, 2010 8:20am

Nanny Allison Julien, right, originally from Barbados, speaks during a Domestic Workers United (DWU) meeting in New York in 2006 as DWU organizer Ai-jen Poo listens.
Nanny Allison Julien, right, originally from Barbados, speaks during a Domestic Workers United (DWU) meeting in New York in 2006 as DWU organizer Ai-jen Poo listens.
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AP Photo/Tina Fineberg

By Jill Colvin

DNAinfo Reporter / Producer

MANHATTAN — The state Senate passed a bill this week that would provide nannies and other domestic workers with a "Bill of Rights" that entitles them to paid holidays, sick leave and overtime pay.

The Assembly has passed a similar bill — if it's signed into law, New York would be the first state in the nation to provide domestic workers with these protections, the New York Times reported.

The law would apply to an estimated 200,000 workers in the city, including legal and illegal immigrants, the Times said.

"Domestic workers are among the most oppressed workers in the United States. They are often abused and mistreated and frequently work under harsh conditions," the bill reads. "The problems of domestic workers underline the need for legislation to protect the rights of male and female employees working in homes."

Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, told the Times that the legislative push was driven by workers who felt that they worked in an unregulated “wild west.”

“You have some employers that are very good and some that are not, and there is nothing mediating that relationship,” she said. “So early on, workers said, ‘We need basic protections and guidelines so that we won’t be at the whim and mercy of our employers.'"

After years of false-starts, the Assembly passed a similar protection measure last year. Gov. David Paterson is expected to sign the reconciled bill into law, the Times reported.

But the vote was tight, split 33 in favor and 28 opposed.

Republicans have raised objections to the bill on the grounds that it extends protections to illegal workers and forces employers to pay more for domestic help.

There are also questions about enforcement. Some workers told the Times that they doubt immigrants without documentation will be willing to come forward and report violations.

“If you are legal in this country, you will benefit from it, but if you are not, then I don’t think it will do much for you,” Upper East Side nanny Rhea Bolivia, who immigrated from the Philippines, told the paper.

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