Protections Sought by Nannies, Other Massachusetts Domestic Workers

November 13, 2013

Nannies and other domestic employees in Massaschusetts who say they are often forced to put in long hours without the same legal protections as other workers asked the state lawmakers to approve a bill of rights that would define uniform standards for working conditions.

The Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers said the legislation, heard Tuesday by the Labor and Workforce Development committee, would require private households to provide such benefits as sick time, days off, meal and rest breaks, parental leave and severance to workers.

Bills filed in both the House and Senate would also require employers to give live-in domestic workers notice before they are dismissed or evicted from their living quarters.

The coalition said there was about 67,000 domestic workers in Massachusetts, though it was unclear how many would be directly affected by the legislation were it to be approved. The group said it would cover people who work in private households, including nannies, housekeepers, housecleaners and those who help care for the sick, elderly or disabled.

The measure would not affect casual baby sitters, nor apply to state licensed agencies that provide domestic workers. It would also exclude personal care attendants who are regulated by the state and are part of a collective bargaining group under the Service Employees International Union, though it would give the attendants the ability to file sexual harassment claims with the state, supporters said.

Supporters of the bill, who held a rally at the Statehouse prior to the hearing, said domestic workers were often women who work long hours and for low pay, usually by themselves in homes and vulnerable to harassment and discrimination.

“By ensuring safe and fair working conditions for workers, employers in turn receive the highest quality care of their families and homes,” said Natalicia Tracy, a former nanny who heads the Brazilian Immigrant Center.

The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Michael Moran and state Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, both Democrats from Boston, also contains privacy rights for workers. It would prohibit employers from secretly videotaping workers on the job or monitoring their private conversations.

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