Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up
Bloomberg Law
Free Newsletter Sign Up

Democrats Introduce Bill to Expand Domestic Worker Protections

July 15, 2019, 10:28 PM

Domestic workers would receive added federal labor protections under a new bill led by Democrats.

The National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, co-authored by Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), would cover nannies, housecleaners, and home-care workers who aren’t currently covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act and other federal policies in the same way other workers are.

The bill would seek to better protect domestic workers by extending workplace discrimination protections and establishing wage standards. The proposal would also invest in a study to examine how to provide health care and retirement benefits for domestic workers, and would establish a National Domestic Worker Hotline. The legislation was pushed by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a nationwide advocacy organization for the workers.

Congress expanded FLSA protections to “domestic service” workers in 1974, but the amendments also exempted certain domestic service workers from the law’s minimum wage and overtime provisions, according to the Labor Department. Under this exemption, babysitters and domestic service workers employed to provide “companionship services” to the elderly or persons with illnesses, injuries, or disabilities aren’t required to be paid the minimum wage or overtime pay.

“This bill patches up what are existing holes in the law,” Jayapal said during a press conference July 15 to introduce the bill.

The proposal garnered House and Senate co-sponsors, including some of Harris’ colleagues running for president, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

This bill is the latest example of worker-focused legislation from Democrats that also seeks to close loopholes in existing federal laws. Other bills include the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (H.R. 2694), which aims to protect pregnant workers from discrimination; the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (H.R. 2474), introduced in the House and Senate May 2, which would substantially broaden workers’ right to strike and unionize; and the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582), which seeks to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 over a series of steps.

This proposal also follows efforts out of Seattle, which established a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights at a city level in July 2018. Jayapal’s congressional district includes much of Seattle and surrounding King County.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaclyn Diaz in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at