The New York City Council passed a bill last Wednesday increasing protections for nannies and other domestic workers in the city, the first such bill on the nation. The bill requires employers to inform domestic workers in writing about their duties, wages, and hours, and employment agencies must sign an agreement stating that they are aware of domestic workers’ rights and labor laws, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Employment agencies violating the law face up to $1,000 in fines and a year in jail.
Ai-Jen Poo, an organizer with Domestic Workers United, estimates that there are 200,000 domestic workers in the city and 600,000 in the greater metropolitan area, according to the New York Times. Most of these women are immigrants who are often unaware of their rights and are scared to challenge their employers because of the fear of losing their jobs or visas, the Monitor reports. Several high-profile cases of abuse of domestic workers provided some of the impetus for this bill. Justina Dumpagnol, a Maylasian native, told the City Council of an incident with a New York family in which she was pushed down basement stairs by a child and left semiconscious until the ambulance arrived. “He locked the door behind me and I was there for a very long time,” she testified, according to the Monitor.
“This is just the beginning. Next, we’re going to seek to get the State Legislature to vote to improve standards for domestic workers,” Poo told the Times. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has indicated he supports the measure, according to the Associated Press. Groups in other major metropolitan areas are also planning to push forward legislation on this issue, using New York as a model.