TRENTON – The Senate passed legislation sponsored by former Governor Richard Codey that would create the “New Jersey Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights Act”. The bill would establish stronger labor and employment protections for the roughly 50,000 workers in New Jersey who provide domestic services, whether they are hourly or salaried, part-time or full-time.
“Domestic workers are essential workers, supporting about a third of families in New Jersey who often need specialized care or other forms of domestic assistance. Despite their critical work, they tend to earn among the lowest wages of all occupations and often fall victim to poor working conditions, wage theft, unpredictable work schedules, and other forms of employer abuse,” said Senator Codey (D-Essex/Morris).
According to a 2021 National Domestic Workers Alliance survey, over one-third of domestic workers do not get meal or rest breaks. Over three-fourths receive no pay if an employer cancels on them, even if the cancellation occurs after they arrive to work. Almost a quarter of domestic workers surveyed reported that they do not feel safe at work. A 2020 report from the Rutgers Center for Women and Work found that 57 percent of New Jersey domestic workers have been subjected to wage theft.
Senator Codey added, “The demand for domestic workers is projected to surge over the coming years as the country’s population continues to age and the need for home health and personal care aids increases. We must ensure these workers are treated humanely and afforded the same respect as all workers are entitled to, especially given the essential and necessary care and support they provide to New Jersey families. No one should be subject to the mistreatment that many domestic workers face on a daily basis, and this legislation will put the proper protections in place to prevent these abuses.”
The bill, S-723, would eliminate the exclusion of domestic workers from the “Law Against Discrimination” and the “New Jersey State Wage and Hour Law”. The bill would additionally establish privacy rights for domestic workers, require employers to enter into written contracts, and institute requirements for rest and break times. Finally, the bill would establish penalties for violation of these provisions, and provide for protections against employer retaliation when a worker asserts their rights.
The bill was passed in a 24-11 vote.