Petition by Employers of Domestic Workers
Dear Councilmembers of the District of Columbia,
As employers of domestic workers, we write to urge you to protect thousands of domestic workers in Washington D.C. by supporting legislation that would eliminate a coverage exclusion to the D.C Human Rights Act for employers of “domestic servants” – e.g. nannies, house cleaners, home-care workers, and other household workers.
We recognize the critical importance of the work performed by our nannies, house cleaners, and home care attendants, that makes it possible for us to work and care for loved ones. It is unfair that household employees are the only D.C. employees who are not protected from discrimination and harassment, a vestige of slavery that needs be be eliminated from our laws immediately.
According to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, there are more than 2 million nannies, house cleaners, and home-based care workers for the elderly and disabled in the United States, including more than 100,000 in the Washington region. Yet, despite being excluded from most federal labor laws, domestic workers enjoy more protections in D.C. than in other jurisdictions. In D.C., families who employ a nanny or other domestic help are considered employers for the purposes of the wage laws, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation; there is no reason other than historical institutionalized racism and sexism that they should not be afforded protection against sexual harassment and discrimination as well.
Given the flood of sexual harassment allegations that have inundated the media outlets and the public over the last year, it is obvious that this is a poorly addressed social problem that requires additional attention to resolve. It is unacceptable that these workers are afforded no legal protection in the workplace against discrimination and harassment. Passing a law to protect them won’t magically guarantee their safety or restore their dignity, but it is a good start. Moreover, it expresses the community’s view that the behavior is unacceptable; that violators should be punished; and that victims should be entitled to protection.
We urge you to support Councilmember Allen’s legislation to remove the domestic worker exclusion in the DCHRA and take prompt action on this important issue. Thank you.