A proposal in the California Senate has opened up the conversation and the possibility of better workplace protections for domestic workers who are currently not covered by state or federal occupational safety laws. According to a news report on LAist.com, the Senate bill proposes removing that exclusion and opening the door for the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to issue workplace safety rules for any household employing a domestic worker.
Domestic Workers Excluded from Workplace Safety Protections
According to a 2020 UCLA Labor Center report, there are now more than 300,000 workers - most of them immigrants and women of color - who are employed in domestic work in about 2 million California households. These are workers who perform jobs such as cleaning, gardening or caring for children. Many also take care of elderly or people with disabilities, an area of growing demand.
The LAist.com article gives the example of one San Francisco woman who injured her back in a slip-and-fall accident while helping to care for a young girl with physical and developmental disabilities. The woman could not work for three months because of her injured back. However, the family offered her a quick apology and a meager $300 as compensation for her medical expenses. This woman's story is typical of many domestic workers who continue to be largely left out of workplace safety protections.
The bill, filed by California Senator Maria Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat, comes in the wake of a report by an advisory committee of workers, their advocates, employers of domestic workers and occupational safety experts. The state's Department of Industrial Relations convened the committee last year at the direction of the Legislature after Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed an earlier version of the workplace safety proposal.
The report bears several policy recommendations and guidelines for employers to maintain a safe worksite in their homes, covering everything from cleaning chemicals to safe lifting practices to prevent injuries. The guidelines are optional. The workers' coalition hopes these guidelines could be adopted to formal state regulations, if Durazo's Senate bill passes.
Common Injuries Suffered by Domestic Workers
Domestic workers often perform hard physical labor and are susceptible to a wide array of injuries on the job including:
- back injuries
- Head injuries or traumatic brain injuries such as concussions
- Hip fractures
- Slip and fall injuries
- Car accident injuries
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Burn injuries as a result of cooking accidents
While some injuries suffered on the job may be minor, others may require the worker to take time off to recover. In severe cases, workers may never be able to return to their jobs or earn a livelihood again. This is why it is important for domestic workers to have their rights upheld and have a legal recourse to seek compensation for their losses.
How Can Domestic Workers Seek Compensation for Injuries On the Job?
If you have been injured on the job as a domestic worker, the first step to take is to report your injury to your employer. In California, anyone who employs one or more full-time or part-time employees must have workers' compensation. If you are a full-time caregiver, for example, your employer will be required under the law to carry workers' comp insurance.
Under California law, for workers' comp purposes, household workers are not considered employees if they worked less than 52 hours or earned no more than $100 in the 90-day period before the injury. If you worked full time for your employer, you may be eligible to receive workers' compensation. Because the law in this area is complex, it would be best to consult an experienced California work injury lawyer to better understand your options.
If you have been injured on the job, it is also important that you seek prompt medical treatment. It is also imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced work injury lawyer about compensation for domestic workers. Your lawyer will be able to explain your rights, calculate you benefits, deal with the insurance company and negotiate a settlement on your behalf. It is crucial that you contact a lawyer regardless of your employment history, current employment status or immigration status.
What if You Are Not Eligible for Workers' Comp Benefits?
If you are not eligible to receive workers' comp benefits, your California work injury lawyer can help you determine what other options you may have. For example, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or you may have a personal injury claim against your employer.
While workers' compensation for domestic workers may provide some coverage for your job-related injuries, filing a personal injury claim will allow you to seek maximum compensation for medical expenses, ongoing treatment costs, lost income and pain and suffering. Contact an experienced California work injury lawyer to learn about your rights and evaluate your options.