The Seattle City Council passed a domestic workers bill of rights Monday. It extends to Seattle’s 30,000 or so nannies, gardeners, home health workers and house cleaners.
It includes some protections currently taken for granted by other kinds of workers.
Tricia Schroeder was looking for a nanny to help watch her special needs child so she could work. She went online to parenting forums to seek advice.
Schroeder, who works for a union, was horrified by the questions she saw there.
“People would ask questions like: ‘Do you pay the nanny while the kids sleep?’” Schroeder recalled. “I was like: ‘It’s not like they can leave the kid while he’s sleeping!’”
Schroeder hired nanny Lashondra Hayes. Hayes had previously been working as a nanny for other employers under the table. She’d recently hit a low point when she was turned down for a car loan because she didn’t have pay stubs to prove she had a stable income.
Hayes said her past employers didn’t mean any harm, they just lacked awareness.
But through Schroeder, Hayes realized how vulnerable she was. The two of them attended City Hall Monday to support the passage of the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, championed by Casa Latina and Working Washington and shepherded through by Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda.
The law grants domestic workers the right to Seattle’s minimum wage, the right to a lunch break if you work a full day, and the right to one day off a week. Under the law, employers are no longer allowed to hold a worker’s passport hostage.
The law also establishes a review board, staffed by stakeholder volunteers, to watchdog the law’s implementation and recommend additional worker standards not directly addressed in the law. For example, domestic workers do not yet have protection against sexual harassment.
As for enforcement, the city still needs to hire additional Office of Labor Standards staff to help keep employers accountable. It’s unclear at this point how many new city staffers will be required, but likely up to four new employees.
Seattle has high levels of income inequality, with more than three times the national average of earners in the top 1 percent.
Seattle is the first city to have passed a workers' bill of rights.
If there’s any doubt left about whether nannies must be paid for the time children under their watch sleep – the answer is yes, they earn at least the minimum wage for all that time, though they have not yet won the right to earn time-and-a-half for overtime.
Correction 7/23/18: An earlier version of this story misstated whether the law also applies to independent contractors, such as gardeners who work for themselves. It does.