Seattle Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights Becomes Law
On July 27, 2018, Mayor Durkin signed into law the Seattle Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights ordinance. The ordinance goes into effect on July 1, 2019. While eight states already have a similar law, Seattle is the first city to pass such legislation. Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards will provide guidance regarding the ordinance and enforce its provisions.
Nannies, caretakers, house cleaners, gardeners, and other domestic workers fall within the ordinance’s protections. This includes hourly and salaried employees as well as independent contractors. It does not include casual work (defined as “irregular, uncertain or incidental in nature and duration” and “different in nature from the type of paid work in which the worker is customarily engaged”), work done by family members, or work done by home care workers who are paid through public funds. All covered workers, whether hired directly or through a placement agency, must receive the minimum hourly wage and either meal and rest breaks or payment in lieu of such break time. Workers who live at their place of employment cannot be required to work more than six consecutive days without an unpaid consecutive 24-hour rest break. Further, employers are prohibited from taking and keeping any domestic worker’s original documents (e.g., a passport) or other personal effects.
The Seattle City Council will soon begin working on companion legislation regarding discrimination and sexual harassment protections for domestic workers. In 2019, the Council will create a Domestic Workers Standards Board comprised of individuals and community organizations. The Board will review labor standards, retirement benefits, worker’s compensation and sick leave issues.
The ordinance involves myriad changes for employers and domestic workers in Seattle. The full extent of these changes will not be known until the Domestic Workers Standards Board and Office of Labor Standards implement the ordinance and the anticipated upcoming companion law.