South Queens, New York – Two landmark bills passed by New York State Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar (D-AD 38) were signed into law by Governor Kathy Hochul just as 2021 came to a close. The bills, A6077A and A8007, expand benefits and protections for the hundreds of thousands of domestic workers in New York State.
Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s first bill (A8007) writes domestic workers into the Human Rights Law of New York State. Domestic workers will now be protected from workplace harassment and discrimination just like other workers. Before now, the New York State Human Rights Law excluded domestic workers from almost all its protections. Rajkumar’s second bill (A6077A) extends paid family leave benefits to domestic workers. Domestic workers who work at least 20 hours per week will now be entitled to paid family leave and temporary disability insurance. Previously, they needed to work at least 40 hours, despite a 20-hour minimum applying to all other industries.
These bills extend vitally needed benefits and safeguards to a workforce that has historically been overlooked and under protected. Domestic work is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States, with over 300,000 domestic workers and 2.7 million households relying on them in New York State alone. Working informally and behind closed doors, domestic workers are vulnerable to exploitation, harassment, and discrimination. This vulnerability disproportionately affects immigrant women and women of color, who overwhelmingly make up the domestic workforce: in New York State, 93% of domestic workers are women, 69% are immigrants, and 30% are African American.
Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar said: “With a new year comes a new era of dignity and respect for our domestic workers. They are a cornerstone of our economy and our society. By caring for our children, our aging parents, and our loved ones with disabilities, they allow so many of us the flexibility to pursue careers. Domestic workers deserve the same freedom from discrimination and harassment afforded anyone at an office desk. Now for the first time our state’s Human Rights Law will provide them the same rights and protections as other workers. Domestic workers, overwhelmingly women of color and immigrant women, will now be treated with dignity and respect.
She continued, “These laws will also extend crucial paid family leave benefits to domestic workers. Just as domestic workers provide care for us, we must provide them the paid leave they need if they or their loved ones are sick. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for recognizing that domestic workers are workers and signing my bills into law.”
Eric Adams, Mayor of the City of New York hailed the new laws: “My mother was a house cleaner and cook, so I know the challenges domestic workers face firsthand. There were times she had to choose between taking care of her children and putting food on the table. Thanks to Assembly Member Rajkumar, there is hope for families like mine. It's time for domestic workers to be treated with the dignity and respect they deserve under the law, and I look forward to partnering with Assembly Member Rajkumar to continue supporting them and all working-class New Yorkers.”
Ai-jen Poo Co-Founder and Executive Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance said: “After generations of exclusion, domestic workers in New York, overwhelmingly women and majority women of color, will finally have protections under the state's Human Rights Law. This historic breakthrough supports the dignity of some of the most isolated and undervalued workers in the state, thanks to the leadership of Assemblywoman Rajkumar and to the determination of domestic workers who have organized for over two decades to see this progress."
Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D-AD 77), Chair of the Committee on Labor said: “My colleague from Queens saw the dilemmas facing domestic workers and fought for their rights and protections. Everyone deserves a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, even if that workplace is another person’s household, and all workers need the security of paid disability and family leave. Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s bills will provide exactly that for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.”
Illana Berger, the New York Director and Strategic Advisor for Hand-in-Hand: The Domestic Employers Network said: “Domestic workers are New York’s essential workers and have faced multiple forms of discrimination without legal recourse or government representation for so long. Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s bills finally give domestic workers these long overdue protections and rights. We thank her for her commitment to empowering them and for leading the way in New York.”
Represent Women founder and executive director Cynthia Terrell said: “I applaud passage of Assemblywoman Rajkumar’s legislation that will include domestic workers under current human rights law and extend to them paid family leave benefits. As a true champion for women’s rights, the Assemblywoman understands the need for fair treatment for a workforce that is so overwhelmingly women. This legislative package is exactly the type of innovation needed to create opportunities for all of us to succeed.”
Annetta Seecharan, Executive Director of CHHAYA Community Development Corporation said: “Domestic Workers are the backbone of our communities. They do the most essential work. It’s time they are protected and guaranteed the rights as every other worker in our state. I applaud Assemblywoman Rajkumar and Governor Hochul for making this historic legislation happen.”