Working for Free is Called Slavery-Get Involved

May 13, 2013 § Leave a comment

Anyone who has worked in a home as a personal assistant, nanny, housekeeper, imagescaretaker, driver, major domo, house manager etc. should be paying special attention to a California Domestic Worker’s Bill AB241. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s office summarized, “It is focused on ensuring six rights for domestic workers: 1) overtime; 2) meal and rest breaks; 3) three paid sick days; 4) workers’ compensation; 5) the right to use kitchen facilities; and 6) the right to have some hours for sleep (eight hours recommended, with some possible exceptions). The previous bill also included cost of living increases, 30 days notice of termination and Cal OSHA protections, all of which have been omitted from the current version.”

Modern day slavery isn’t a new problem. As long as there have been people who work in other’s homes, there has been a need to clarify and specify the pay structure and job responsibilities of employees. It is one of the last industries that often and purposely ignore state labor laws and it’s an accepted mindset of employers that needs changing.

Most publicly we recently saw this with Lady Gaga not acknowledging that her assistant, who accompanied her 24/7/365, was entitled to overtime pay. (https://assistantsurvival.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/big-monster-behaving-badly/) The obvious reason workers accept abuse is fear of being replaced. There is no one to enforce the laws, no liaison between the worker and employer and it becomes a contentious relationship you’re fighting your employer to for overtime pay-one that never goes over well.

However, when the employee is hired from an agency, the agencies work on behalf of the candidate and client to make sure the job expectations are outlined, hourly rate agreed on, and time demands clear. Even then, I have seen the responsibilities and hours get skewed once time on the job sets in. But unfortunately, most people do not use an agency to hire someone, settling instead on getting recommendations from their friends for new hires.

So how can a worker protect themselves from miscommunications or  uncompensated excessive hours? I recommend going into a position with a written job description or asking for one to make sure you’re all on the same page. It should include the max hours you are expected to work, holidays off, with or without pay—especially if it is a salaried position. It need not be a confrontation, just clarifying so you can make plans and have a life. Frankly it is good for both sides. Email it to your employer, whether they sign it or not. At least they will be aware of your understanding of the position.

Everyone that works in a home (especially live-in employees) should get behind this bill to see it to fruition because there are powers in numbers and awareness in involvement. You can get involved via this link: http://www.domesticworkers.org/news/ca-bill-of-rights

More reading on this topic: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mobileweb/2013/03/07/domestic-workers-california-bill_n_2822520.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

It’s not just happening here: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/life/canada’s-modern-day-slaves-filipina-nannies

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