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Being a Nanny in a Post-Bill of Rights State

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The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights ushered in a new era for nannies and house-keepers in New York. Or did it? It has been almost a year and a half since the legislation was enacted. This May Day would be a great opportunity to step back and assess the benefits.

On August 31, 2010 then New York governor signed a law which extended labor protections to domestic workers. Otherwise known at the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, the law gives domestic workers, among other provisions:

  • The right to overtime pay at time-and-a-half after 40 hours of work, or 44 hours for the workers who live in their employer's home;
  • A day of rest (24 hours) every seven days, or overtime pay if they agree to work on that day;
  • Three paid days of rest each year after one year of work for the same employer;
  • Protection under New York State Human Rights Law, and the creation of a special cause of action for domestic workers who suffer sexual or racial harassment.

Most importantly, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights protects all workers, whether they are a citizen of the United States; a Legal Permanent Resident (LPR); an immigrant worker with other lawful status; or an undocumented worker.

But one year after the passage of the bill, an employer in New York City gave a Caribbean nanny The List:

  • Each week, beds are to be made and blinds (in the bedroom) opened each morning.
  • Each evening, blinds (in the bedroom) are to be closed.
  • Before you go down for the first night, please be sure the kitchen and eating areas are cleaned, dishes cleaned and the kitchen floor mopped.
  • The bathrooms should be cleaned 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • Sheets (on all upstairs bedrooms) should be changed and washed 1 time per week unless otherwise needed sooner.
  • If there are guests on a weekend, on Monday the room they were in should be cleaned.
  • Shower towels and hand towels should be changed and washed 2 times per week.
  • The rooms should be fully dusted and vacuumed 1-2 times a week to clean the baseboards, around the lights and the ceiling molding, under the bed and in the corners.
  • Ceiling fans in the bedrooms should be cleaned once a week or more if you notice they are dusty.
  • The kitchen should be kept cleaned but 1-2 times a week should be thoroughly cleaned. The oven should be cleaned once a week and the stovetop as needed.
  • The fridge (upstairs and downstairs) should be cleaned out once a week, rotting food thrown out and shelves and drawers wiped out.
  • Before the end of the week, all the laundry should be done and left in the bedrooms before you leave for the weekend (before any anticipated days off).
  • Anything else around the house that you notice needs straightening or cleaning, please take it upon yourself to do it.

Not mentioned in the list is the fact that the nanny was expected to perform these tasks in addition to caring for four children for the paltry wages of $400 per week.

So, why the disconnect? Did employers not get the memo about the Bill of Rights? Just in case, today I am launching my report, "A Day in the Life of a Domestic Worker: Caribbean Immigrant Women and the Campaign for Fair Labor Standards (with Related Policy Recommendations)."