Senate Passes Legislation to Improve Domestic Worker Protections and Promote Working Women

The New York State Senate passed legislation to protect the rights and benefits of domestic workers by further prohibiting discrimination, improving Temporary Disability Insurance Access, and raising employee awareness regarding workplace protections. This package recognizes the broad set of circumstances that may compel a domestic worker to take time off and seeks to lessen the burden imposed by such situations. It simultaneously looks to revamp workplace dynamics by allowing for greater work-from-home flexibility, particularly in light of a health emergency or local crisis. This would allow parents and caretakers to effectively pivot and tend to both their personal and professional obligations without consequence. It also looks ahead to the future of New York caregiving by investigating the causes of the industry decline and proposing necessary solutions.

These protections empower domestic workers to prioritize their wellbeing without fear of repercussion during a time when health and job security are of the utmost importance. It further acknowledges that a majority of domestic workers are women of color and aims to address the unique challenges that they face.

“Working women and families have consistently served as the backbone of our labor force,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “This legislation upholds, protects and promotes their livelihoods by defending basic worker rights. I am proud of what this package sets out to accomplish and optimistic that this will put us on a path towards greater workplace reform. I commend the bill sponsors for their work on this legislation, and we will continue to fight for all workers.”

Expanding Human Rights Law to Domestic Workers Read More

This bill, S.5064, sponsored by Senator Jessica Ramos, addresses the lack of comprehensive Human Rights Law protections for domestic workers. The current law only prohibits sexual harassment. This bill would adopt the full breadth of protections to also address age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation and disability-based discrimination. 

Improved Access to Temporary Disability Insurance Read More

This bill, S.3291A, sponsored by Senator Julia Salazar, would amend the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights to grant Temporary Disability Insurance to domestic workers who work 20 hours a week, rather than the previous threshold of 40. 

Personal Care and Lawful Absence Assurance Read More

This bill, S.1958, sponsored by Senator Liz Krueger, would protect employees from being punished for lawful work absences. Such absences could include: tending to prenatal care; assisting a sick family member; responding to an emergency, or observing a religious commitment. This provision would allow people to prioritize the health and wellbeing of themselves and loved ones without risking their income. It would also seek to improve public awareness of workers’ rights. 

The Caregiver Protection Act Read More

This bill, S.5063, sponsored by Senator Robert Jackson, would increase caregiver protections by prohibiting employers from discriminating against people based on their caregiver status. Recognizing that 75% of caregivers are women, this provision would grant better job security to those who are frequently displaced from the workforce.

Provision to Protect Working Families Read More

This bill, S.5065, sponsored by Senator Roxanne Persaud, allows for greater work from home flexibility during a health crisis or local disaster that results in the closure of schools and childcare centers. This would prohibit employers from penalizing those who request greater leeway to work from home  and creates benchmarks to ensure productivity and trust. 

Study to Assess and Promote the Continuum of Caregiving Read More

This bill, S.5734, sponsored by Senator Sean M. Ryan, authorizes a multi-agency study on the issues impacting caregivers in the state of New York. Although caregiving remains a necessary social system, the industry has been deeply threatened by COVID-19. This study would analyze the causes of caregiver decline and recommend solutions. 

Member Support Read More

Bill Sponsor Senator Robert Jackson said, “Caring for an older adult or someone with a chronic illness can be stressful, especially when trying to hold down a full-time job. In my district, many caregivers are working-class women who have long known the precarity of job insecurity, few to no benefits, low wages, and other conditions because they must care for their loved ones. One may not think of that person as a caregiver if they have a job outside of the home or is an older adult. Today, in passing my bill, our senate majority recognizes caregivers' rights by preventing discrimination based on their status, which I hope will provide some comfort during difficult times.”

Bill Sponsor Senator Liz Krueger said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light many of the cracks and fissures lying just under the surface of our society. One of those is just how deeply we rely on care workers, and just how poorly we care for them in return. Whether it's aging parents, young children, or sick family members, our society simply could not function without these essential workers, whether they are employees or simply family members filling a vital role. Today's package of bills brings us one step closer to giving caregivers and domestic workers the respect and support they deserve.”

Bill Sponsor Senator Roxanne J. Persaud said, "Many New Yorkers have recently become familiar with the challenges of being responsible parents and employees when childcare and schools are closed due to declared emergencies. S. 5065 enacts basic rights and responsibilities with checks and balances for both employers and employees when structured and supervised care or education must be provided at home due to such uncontrollable circumstances.

Bill Sponsor, and Chair of the Senate Labor Committee, Senator Jessica Ramos said,  “Domestic workers take care of the things most personal to us and have put their lives at risk throughout this pandemic to do so. They deserve the same protections and rights to a discrimination-free work environment as every other worker across our state. The New York State Senate is taking the first step to guarantee domestic workers their rights under our Human Rights law, continuing to reverse decades of injustice.”

Bill Sponsor Senator Sean Ryan said, “When we think of caregiving, we usually think of childcare – but families throughout New York also rely on professional caregivers for assistance with aging parents, adults with special needs, and injured veterans. These families need trained and qualified workers to provide that care. During the pandemic, New York’s already worsening shortage of caregiving workers has been exacerbated. The problem is amplified in rural areas, where a smaller workforce and fewer transportation options can add extra challenges. Without a thoughtful plan, the workforce shortage will only get worse – but we can’t solve this problem until we fully understand it. My bill will authorize a multi-agency study to analyze the source of the issue and provide the data we need to identify a solution. The results of the study will be instrumental in compiling a holistic plan to address these workforce shortages. The legislative package we are passing today will ultimately ensure that families in every part of New York have access to the care they need.” 

Bill Sponsor Senator Julia Salazar said, “As a legislature, it is our duty to ensure that the law protects workers from workplace discrimination. The rights of everyday workers are constantly under attack, and we must continue to pass legislation that prevents any form of discrimination and preserves worker health and benefits. This legislative package provides job security, additional support for workers who are caregivers, and extends benefits to a wider range of workers, not just those who work over 40 hours a week. Families should not have to choose between their income and their personal health, and I fully support these bills that ensure that we prioritize the well being of our everyday New Yorkers.”

Senator Jamaal Bailey said, “Caregivers and domestic workers face some of the toughest challenges in their professions. Despite the fact that their careers are predicated on care for others, they often struggle with job security, livable wages, benefits, and workplace protections. This bill package aims to address the many issues surrounding the professions. With the passage of these pieces of legislation, domestic workers and caregivers will be provided with human rights protections, expanded access to disability benefits, and lawful personal time off. I would like to thank Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins for her leadership and my colleagues who sponsored the bills in this package.”

Senator Alessandra Biaggi said, “Caregivers and domestic workers are sacred and essential to our society — and it is long past time our laws treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. As our state recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must center the needs of all caregivers and domestic workers to ensure they have an equal opportunity in the workforce. I am proud to join my colleagues today in passing this critical legislation.”

Senator Jeremy Cooney said, “Prioritizing the health and well being of women in work environments will improve overall culture and increase access to career opportunities for people who may have been overlooked in the past. I support creating a more inclusive workplace and continuing to be innovative for how we support our workers.”

Senator Peter Harckham said, “Domestic workers and caregivers deserve the same rights and protections afforded to other workers. This new package of legislation, which I fully support, provides greater assurances for these underrepresented groups, most of whom are women.”

Senator Shelley Mayer said, “One of my top priorities as a legislator is ensuring our laws protect workers and provide them tools to be both productive in the workplace and address their caregiving responsibilities. I am proud the Senate Majority has taken the devastating lessons of COVID-19 pandemic to rebuild the economy in a way that makes it more resilient and supportive of workers.” 

Senator Luis Sepulveda said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has completely shifted the way we live and work. It has also brought to light many of the injustices that still remain when it comes to protecting workers. This legislation package will address several shortcomings in our current labor laws in order to protect working families far beyond the pandemic. I am proud to support my colleagues in expanding rights and protections for domestic workers, caregivers, and working parents.”

Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said, “All workers deserve to be treated equally and fairly and to not jeopardize the health, safety or wellness of themselves and their families. This legislation provides protections for domestic workers that are reasonable, just and fair. I thank my colleagues in the Democratic Majority for their work in fighting for the rights of these workers, most of whom are women.”

Senator Kevin Thomas said, “We must do more to lift up the critical work that our caregivers—the majority of whom are women—do every day in the face of heavy emotional and financial burdens. The legislation my Senate colleagues and I have passed today represents our commitment to caregivers, working families, and domestic workers by providing the resources, protections, and support they need for themselves and the loved ones they assist.”

Senators Involved