The California State Legislature has approved a bill that could mark a huge step forward for domestic worker rights in the state.
AB-241, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would guarantee overtime pay for domestic workers who work more than nine hours per day or 45 hours per week. The bill has been dubbed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, and would make California the second state in the nation, after New York, to pass such a bill.
“Growing up, I saw first-hand how hard domestic workers labor without basic worker protections that most of us take for granted,” said coauthor Senator Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) in a press release about the passing. “My mother worked her fingers to the bone cleaning other people’s homes. I’m proud to be a coauthor for this long-overdue measure which will end the historic exclusion of this industry from overtime pay.”
The Senate approved the bill with amendments 22-12 on Wednesday, and the Assembly approved the changes on Thursday morning. Governor Brown now has until October 13 to sign the bill.
Should Brown sign it, he will then convene a committee to review the success of the bill, and lawmakers will have three years to make it permanent.
However, Brown killed a similar bill last year, arguing that it would place an extra burden on employers, particularly with low-income, elderly or disabled individuals who need constant care.
"Employers in California have been hit by a ton of class-action litigation over what a meal period is, what it means to provide a meal period, and things like that, costing businesses a ton of money," said Jennifer Barrera, the chamber's labor and employment advocate, to The Huffington Post, at the time. The domestic workers' bill would have put "that same type of burden onto working families who are struggling, I'm sure, to already afford a nanny."
While AB-241 initially included other worker rights, such as meal breaks, sick days and workers’ compensation, the Senate’s amended version focuses strictly on overtime pay.
“We obviously believe these workers should have all of these rights, but the overtime is by far the most important element we were looking for,” explained Ammiano Communications Director Carlos Alcalá to The Huffington Post. “We’re happy to go forward with the bill as it is.”
The bill has seen support across the state. In March, hundreds of housekeepers, child care providers and other domestic workers marched in front of the state building in Los Angeles, banging pots and pans, to show support.
In a statement, Ammiano’s office said that the bill “rights a historic wrong.”
“Senate passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is one more step in a movement to make sure these workers get the kind of labor protections they deserve,” wrote Ammiano. “This movement is taking place all over the country and won’t be over until domestic workers rights are spelled out in every state. When this bill gets final approval and signature, California will be a leader in that movement.”