Democratic lawmakers propose law to protect domestic worker rights

SB 6247 would guarantee they be paid at least minimum wage

OLYMPIA — A measure designed to protect the health, safety and overall well-being of domestic workers in Washington state has been sponsored by Democratic senators at the request of Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

If passed, SB 6247 would guarantee that domestic workers be paid at least minimum wage, which is $13.50 per hour, according to the state Department of Labor and Industries.

Workers must also receive meal and rest breaks, and overtime pay, if applicable.

A written agreement between employees and employers would be required, as well as a two-week termination notice, extended to four-weeks for live-in employees, or severance pay, according to the bill.

“This is a group of workers that too often are made invisible but do critical work that is highly valued by families across our state,” said Sen. Rebecca Saldana, D-Seattle, the bill’s primary sponsor.

“They care for our children, provide domestic services so that working moms, like me, can do our jobs in the public sphere.”

The bill defines a domestic worker as anyone who is paid hourly for doing work in residence as a nanny, cleaner, cook, gardener or any other work related to child care or home care.

This does not include a person who provides irregular work or performs babysitting, house sitting or pet sitting duties.

Domestic workers are mostly female immigrants, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.

Adriana Cazorla, a domestic worker, said she was sexually harassed and threatened by her employer.

“I was told that I had to do all of the house work naked in order to continue working there,” Carzola said through a translator.

“I decided that I didn’t want to do that work anymore, and he continued to threaten me, and not pay me, and again, threatened to call immigration.”

Many who opposed the bill requested that certain workers be exempt from the language of the bill, including people who provide care for their own family members.

Several of the individuals testifying against the bill spoke on behalf of au pair programs, in particular. Au pairs are foreigners that are assigned to a host family and do domestic-related work in exchange for room and board, along with a weekly stipend.

“Being a live-in nanny is incredibly difficult, emotionally taxing work,” said Leila Reynolds, who was in support of the bill and said she had previously worked as an au pair in Germany for an American family.

“The au pair agencies are gonna be here because they can afford to be here,” Reynolds said. “The au pairs are not going to be here because it’s very difficult to stand up to your employer when you live with them.”

A worker paid minimum wage in Washington state makes $540 in a typical 40-hour week. Au pairs are typically paid $195.75 on a weekly basis, according to Au Pair in America, but don’t have to pay for room and board out of their own pockets.

Concerns were raised about the increased cost families would face if this bill passes.

“When I chose this program, I knew the modalities and how much I will be paid,” said Camille Rouxel, an au pair from France.

“If I didn’t agree with the program, I would never had come to the United States. Some forgot that the au pair program is first and foremost a cultural exchange, and we are a part of an American family.”

The bill was heard by the Labor and Commerce Committee on Monday.

________

This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.

More in News

Olympic National Forest holiday tree permits are available

Olympic National Forest holiday tree permits are available… Continue reading

Police review video, teen recovers after shooting at mall

Tacoma police reviewed video footage from inside the Tacoma Mall… Continue reading

FILE - In this March 9, 2021, file photo, House members meet in the Statehouse, in Boise, Idaho. An Idaho law banning nearly all abortions would take effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that declared a nationwide right to abortion. The court with a 6-3 conservative majority on Wednesday, Dec. 1 starts hearing arguments over a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. (AP Photo/Keith Ridler, File)
Most Idaho abortions banned if Roe v. Wade is overturned

An Idaho law banning nearly all abortions would take… Continue reading

Omicron variant not found in Washington state as of Tuesday

Health officer: Precautions work against newest version of COVID-19

A cabin was seen floating down the Quillayute River and a snapshot taken by Richwine Road resident Lisa Kemmerer. (Photo courtesy Lisa Kemmerer)
One cabin saved after another sent into river by floods

Port Angeles couple rescue dwelling on the Quillayute

Laptop fund formed to help students

Laptops will be offered to students who are pursuing… Continue reading

Medical assisting program at Peninsula College earns accreditation

The medical assisting program at Peninsula College has earned… Continue reading

Free legal aid clinic to address housing issues

The Clallam-Jefferson County Pro Bono Lawyers will conduct a… Continue reading

Most Read