Welcome!

In this section of our website, you will find information on the legal rights for domestic workers in Massachusetts. These rights are guaranteed by Chapter 148 of the Acts of 2014, the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, which was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick on July 2nd, 2014. Some parts of the law are already in effect, but its full provisions will be effective on April 1, 2015.

MataHari is part of the Massachusetts Coalition for Domestic Workers, which led the fight to secure legal rights for domestic workers in this state. We believe that domestic work is integral to the well-being of our society, and that those who make their living in this industry deserve not only legal protections, but also respect and recognition as workers. This law is just one step along the way to that goal. We are so happy and grateful to provide you the information below, and we hope you will join us in continuing to build community support and solidarity for domestic workers.  

Definition of Domestic Work: Domestic work is defined as, per the International Labor Organization No. 189, ” work performed in or for a household or households and ‘domestic worker’ means any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship.” As such, child-care, elderly-care, live-in work, and housecleaning are all types of domestic work.


The Issue:

From domesticworkers.org:

"Though domestic workers are professionals who do real work everyday, domestic workers are excluded from many of the basic protections guaranteed by the Fair Labor Standards Act to most other workers in the United States — things like minimum wage, overtime, sick and vacation pay. Many do not earn a living wage and work without access to health care, paid sick days or paid time off. Because of domestic workers’ unique workplaces — inside other people’s homes — the struggles domestic workers face are largely out of the public spotlight.”  

Fair pay and equity in the treatment of Domestic Workers is a gender issue — according to a recent study by the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, 90 percent of all domestic workers are women, and one of the primary goals of MataHari and its partner organizations is to raise the value of women’s labor in the household.  Ultimately, domestic work is the work that makes all other work possible.

WHAT WE DO:

One of the premier victories in this fight for justice in Domestic Workers’ treatment and pay was the signing of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights on July 2nd, 2014, into law.  MataHari has organized around this Bill for years with sister organizations.  You can read about the provisions and when they go into effect below.

We also hold leadership and development trainings, offer membership to a strong community of fellow women workers, and hold frequent events; check out how you can get involved below.


COMPONENTS OF THE DOMESTIC WORKERS' BILL OF RIGHTS

a summary of the bill

The Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights amends Massachusetts state labor law to guarantee basic work standards and protections: 24 hours off per 7-day calendar work week and 48 hours off per month; meal and rest breaks; limited vacation and sick days; parental leave; protection from discrimination, sexual harassment, illegal charges for food and lodging, and eviction without notice; notice of termination; and a means of enforcing these standards. Domestic employers under the bill does not include state licensed or registered employment or staffing agencies or the employers of those who are casual babysitters. Currently New York, California, Hawaii  and Massachusetts are the four states that have passed state-level bills.

Domestic workers include nannies, caregivers, and house-cleaners. Today, the majority of domestic workers are women, immigrants and/or people of color. Historically, domestic workers were excluded from basic state and federal labor rights and protections. Starting with the New Deal, domestic workers and farm laborers were deliberately excluded from the US’s newly constructed labor laws. During the creation of New Deal legislation in the 1930s, Black workers made up a significant portion of the domestic and farm labor sector. Fearing the emergence of of an African American labor movement, Southern lawmakers ensured the exclusion of domestic and farm laborers. Domestic workers are vulnerable to abuse, mistreatment and isolation from the workforce. In some cases, domestic workers work in workplaces without protections against unsafe working conditions, discrimination and sexual harassment. The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights provides clear standard, expectations and protections in order to help both domestic workers and the families with which they work.


WORKERS: KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

Read here about Specific protections the bill offers workers, and when they go into effect. 

 

1. Discrimination

IN EFFECT NOW:

An employer cannot fire you, refuse to hire you, or pay you less because of your race, sex, national origin, or because you’re pregnant. You can file a discrimination claim with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) for discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,, pregnancy and for harassment for sex, race, color, age, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability if the harassment interferes with the ability of the domestic worker to perform her job. If you are a Personal Care Attendant you will have the right to file a sexual harassment claim at the MCAD.

 

2. Forced Labor and Trafficking

IN EFFECT NOW:

If you live in the home, your employer must provide adequate, decent and sanitary lodging, including heat, potable water, and light. If you are earning the minimum wage, the employer can deduct a maximum of $35.00 a week from your wages! Even if you make more than the minimum wage, for lodging deductions to be made, you must agree in writing and the housing arrangement must be for your benefit and not required by the job.

IN EFFECT APRIL 1ST 2015:

You will be able to go to the attorney general if you are being forced to work against your will. You will have the right to keep your documents (including your passport and visa) and must be told by employer you have that right.

 

3. Safety and Privacy

In effect NOW:  

No one has the right to touch you sexually, make sexual jokes, or to make you feel uncomfortable with unwanted sexual advances in your workplace.

If you live in the home, your employer must provide adequate, decent and sanitary lodging, including heat, potable water, and light. If you are earning the minimum wage, the employer can deduct a maximum of $35.00 a week from your wages! Even if you make more than the minimum wage, for lodging deductions to be made, you must agree in writing and the housing arrangement must be for your benefit and not required for the job.  

IN EFFECT APRIL 1ST, 2015:

You will have the right to privacy. This means the employer cannot interfere with or monitor your private communication and you will be protected against unreasonable, substantial or serious interference with your privacy even if you live in the home.

 

4. Live-In Workers

In effect NOW:

If you live in the home, your employer must provide adequate, decent and sanitary lodging, including heat, potable water, and light. If you are earning the minimum wage, the employer can deduct a maximum of $35.00 a week from your wages! Even if you make more than the minimum wage, for lodging deductions to be made, you must agree and the housing arrangement must be for your benefit.

IN EFFECT APRIL 1ST, 2015:

If you are a live-in domestic worker you will have the right to written notice and 30 days of housing on site or off site OR two weeks severance pay but only if you are terminated without cause (i.e., the employer has not made a good faith allegation that you have abused or neglected or caused other harm to any individual in the employer’s family or household).

 

5. Workers and Compensation Benefits

In effect NOW:

If you hurt yourself while working you have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits (unless, as a domestic worker, you work less than 16 hours per week for the individual employer). Workers’ compensation will pay your medical bills and compensate you for lost work time.

You have the right to unemployment benefits if you have earned $3,500 in the prior year and meet other requirements including having work authorization when you go to apply for benefits.

 

6. Employee and Performance Records

In effect NOW:

All employers, including homeowners, must keep a record of the hours that their employees work. You should keep your own record of your hours, as well. A court will consider your record of your hours if you have not been paid properly.

IN EFFECT APRIL 1ST, 2015:

You may request an evaluation after your first three months and an annual evaluation thereafter. However, you do not have a right to receive an evaluation. If an evaluation is done, you can challenge what is put in your evaluation.

 

7. Right to Written Agreement

In effect April 1st, 2015:

If you work more than 16 hours a week you will have the right to a written agreement. The agreement must explain everything up front, including: what your job is, how much you will be paid, if food or housing will be provided, what rest days, vacation days, and sick leave you will get, what fees you may be charged (and these charges require your written agreement) and any other important issue.

You will have the right to know all workplace rights under state and federal laws and your employer must give you a list of all of your workplace rights at the beginning of the job.

 

8. Wages, Working Time, Overtime, Regular Pay, Rest

In effect NOW:

You have the right to get paid every week or every other week.

  • You must be paid at least $8.00 an hour, and you must receive overtime pay (“time-and-a half”) for all hours worked over 40 hours in one week.
  • House cleaners and nannies with nanny share, if you are required to travel between your employer’s homes you are still on the clock and your travel time counts as working time. Travel between work and home, however, is not paid time.

In Effect April 1st, 2015:

You will have the right to a continuous 24 hours of rest each week and 48 hours a month if you are a full time domestic worker (meaning you work 40 hours or more per week). If you agree to work during your rest times, you are to be paid time-and-a-half.