Illinois just passed a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, joining six other states in giving workers who care for the disabled, elderly, and children many of the same rights the rest of us have enjoyed since … 1938.
This January, 2017, domestic workers in Illinois will:
- Get paid the same minimum wage ($8.25) as other Illinois workers (how much do you pay your sitter for watching TV and eating your food?)
- Get a day of rest once a week (nope, they didn’t get this)
- Will be covered by the Illinois Human Rights Act (apparently they’re not human until January)
If you’re wondering why domestic workers are just now – slowly – getting the same protections as other workers, history is your friend. Domestic and farm workers were exempted from much of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act by members of Congress from Southern states, which still relied on cheap labor from these workers, who were, as we also know, women and minorities. Oh, and they still are.
When the FLSA was amended in 1974, domestic workers were added, but live-in workers were still exempt from overtime, and workers who helped the elderly or infirm were still exempted from the minimum wage and overtime. In 2013, the US Department of Labor narrowed the “companionship services” loophole and exemptions exploited by employment agencies. That opened the door for states to update their laws, although New York State already started the process in 2010.
So far, seven states have passed legislation that bring domestic worker rights up to par (mostly) with other workers:
The Illinois bill was sponsored by Rep. Lisa Hernandez and Sen. Ira Silverstein, and supported by a number of groups, including the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, among others.