Massachusetts workers’ compensation: PT domestic workers next?

There is a move under foot in several states, including in Massachusetts, to extend labor protections to all domestic workers. Under current laws, some of these workers are typically denied such rights as overtime pay and breaks to eat. Many are also denied the right to workers’ compensation insurance benefits. Currently, under Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts General Laws, a domestic worker employed for less than 16 hours weekly is only covered by workers’ compensation if the employer voluntarily chooses to include them. The same is true of seasonal or casual workers.

On the west coast, a state assemblyman intends to reintroduce a bill addressing these issues. It was ultimately defeated last year. At that time, their state governor exercised a veto amid concerns that passage of the law would adversely impact the elderly and infirm, particularly those who require 24-hour care.

New York has already passed a bill to further protect domestic workers. If the California assemblyman is successful with his proposed bill, his state will be the second to recognize these rights. Efforts are also being made in Massachusetts to address these concerns.

If passed, all domestic workers may be entitled to a number of basic employment benefits. In Massachusetts, that could include the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits beyond what the current statute already provides. This important insurance program provides covered workers with vital benefits for medical expenses and lost income from work for those that are injured or become ill on the job. Domestic workers may want to follow the progress of the California legislation to see if their cause is advanced in that state, a result which could spur Massachusetts legislators to further action in support of additional labor rights for all domestic workers.

Source: Huffington Post, “Domestic Workers Bill In California Brings Housekeepers & Nannies To The Streets (PHOTOS),” Kathleen Miles, March 13, 2013

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