At long last, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law AB 241 or the “California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.” The bill, which passed the legislature last September 26, will provide housekeepers, childcare providers, and caregivers with basic worker rights and other labor protections.
With the passage of the bill, nearly 200,000 domestic workers working in the most populous state in the U.S., who are mostly women of color, will now be entitled to various employment and labor rights and protections, including the following:
- Overtime wages, which is equivalent to time and one-half the rate of pay for those who work more than nine hours in one day, or 45 hours every workweek;
- Meal and rest breaks;
- Eight (8) hours of uninterrupted sleep under adequate conditions, especially for in-house domestic workers who perform 24-hour shifts every day;
- Use of kitchen facilities with no extra charge, which applies to domestic workers who perform work for more than five (5) hours;
- Paid rest days, which is up to three per year based on hours worked per week after the first year of employment; and
- Workers’ compensation benefits, if in case the domestic worker suffers an injury while doing work or suffers an illness.
This major victory for the lower-paid workers came in after Democrat Governor Brown recently approved the bill that would gradually increase the state’s minimum wage from the current $8.00 per hour to $10.00 per hour through 2016. While these laws target lower-wage workers in the state with one of the highest cost of living, Republicans in the state’s legislature argued that they may not go as planned, especially when employers force themselves to cut down hours or hire fewer prospects.
Despite this, sponsors of the newly-signed bill, along with its author, Calif. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), remain optimistic with the implementation of the law, which will take effect January 1 next year. Although this is so, a sunset clause in the bill stipulates that the protections will end in 2017 if the rights are not extended by the legislature.
In retrospect, the signing of AB 241 is long overdue; in fact, the bill was the state legislature’s third attempt to devise and submit to the governor a law that would protect California domestic workers. It was in 2006 when then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the first one. The second one, AB 889, was likewise vetoed by the current Governor last year, citing affordability issues, including overtime pay.
Meanwhile, a top Los Angeles labor lawyer commented on this development, saying that with the Gov. Brown’s signing of AB 241, the Golden State has proven time and again its desire to cater to the needs of its working population, both U.S.-born and immigrants, through the passage of protective employment and labor laws.