Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Feb 18 2020

OLYMPIA — The Washington State House of Representatives today passed Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Gov. Jay Inslee’s joint legislation protecting domestic workers. It passed by a bipartisan, 59-39 vote. It now moves to the Senate for consideration.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Monica Stonier, D-Vancouver, provides domestic workers with important worker protections, including protection against retaliation, sexual harassment and discrimination. Sen. Rebecca Saldaña, D-Columbia City, sponsors the companion bill in the Senate.

“Our economy depends on domestic workers,” Ferguson said. “These workers take care of us and our loved ones in our homes, and they are particularly vulnerable due to the nature of their work. We cannot continue to be indifferent to the needs of domestic workers who have been left out of basic worker protections for far too long.”

“Domestic workers do important work — they provide care and support for our children, our aging parents, our family members with disabilities and our homes,” Gov. Inslee said. “However, they have been historically unprotected under labor laws. This bill is about closing loopholes, protecting more workers, and ensuring that people who perform important, personal work are afforded basic rights and respect.”

“Domestic workers care for some of our most vulnerable neighbors, including children, the elderly, and people with disabilities,” Rep. Stonier said. “They deserve to be treated fairly and to be protected from harassment and abuse while providing this invaluable service to our community.”

"Domestic workers do critical work caring for our families and maintaining our homes so working moms like me can do our jobs in the public sphere,” Sen. Saldaña said. “This is a group largely made up of immigrant women whose work is as valuable as any work performed outside the home. Just like any other worker, they deserve protection under the law from intimidation, retaliation and sexual harassment."

Washington’s current laws exclude domestic workers from many key protections. For example, under current law, most domestic workers have no recourse against sexual harassment other than to quit their job.

This bill:

  • Provides domestic workers with protections afforded to other workers, including protection against sexual harassment and discrimination;
  • Ensures domestic workers are afforded basic privacy protections, including the right to unmonitored bathroom activities;
  • Prohibits employers of domestic workers from demanding to hold on to personal effects, including legal and identification documents; and
  • Establishes a task force that will look at processes for the implementation of other benefits, such as paid time off and sick leave, safety standards, and plans for effective outreach and education.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington has at least 100,000 domestic workers. Domestic service means any services related to the maintenance of private homes or their premises, or the care of people in private homes, including:

  • Caring for a child;
  • Serving as a companion or caretaker for an individual who is sick, elderly or an individual with a disability,
  • Providing house cleaning services,
  • Preparing food, or
  • Gardening

Several organizations joined Attorney General Ferguson and Governor Inslee in support of the bill, including SEIU 775, National Labor Council, Hand in Hand, National Domestic Workers Alliance, One America, Legal Voice, Casa Latina and MomsRising.

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The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.

Contacts:

Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov