Photo credit: Philadelphia Domestic Workers Alliance

Philly's Groundbreaking Protections for Domestic Workers

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Domestic SlaveryLaw & Policy

Philadelphia is on track to be the largest city in the United States to pass legislation to protect domestic workers against exploitation. The city’s estimated 16,000 domestic workers — caretakers, nannies and house cleaners — are currently excluded from labor laws, meaning they have little means of recourse when they are abused or underpaid by employers.

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City Council by Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez formally introduced the Philadelphia Domestic Workers Bill of Rights on Thursday, a major announcement following months of campaigning by the Philadelphia Domestic Workers Alliance.

The Philadelphia Inquirer explains what the bill would do:

  • Workers are entitled to up to five days of paid time off (PTO). The PTO will likely be a tiered system based on time worked, so someone who works 30 hours a week would accrue more PTO than someone who works 10.

  • Employers must use a contract to specify hours, pay rates, schedules, holidays, and other employment terms.

  • Workers are guaranteed paid rest and meal breaks (a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked consecutively and a 30-minute meal break after more than five hours). Live-in workers such as nannies and caregivers are guaranteed one unpaid day off after working six consecutive days.

  • The city will create a “portable benefits” system for workers’ hours to follow them, not the employer, meaning those with multiple employers can still accrue enough hours to qualify for paid time off.

  • A Domestic Work Working Group, which will meet this summer, will develop a proposal for a Domestic Worker Standards and Implementation Board to monitor enforcement and regulation.

  • Employers must provide two weeks’ notice before terminating an employment contract (four weeks if the worker is live-in), except in cases of “significant misconduct.”

Mayor Jim Kenney has already signalled his support of the bill and five City Council members appeared at a press conference to show their support.

Currently, only nine states — New Mexico, New York, Hawaii, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Nevada, Massachusetts and Oregon — and the City of Seattle have protections for domestic workers.

There should be hearings on the bill this fall, and advocates hope the bill will pass Council and be signed by Kenney by the end of this year.

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