Legislation seeks to protect domestic workers

Domestic workers in Tennessee and throughout the country don't have the same anti-discrimination rights as other employees. This is because civil rights laws only apply to companies that have 15 or more workers.

However, the National Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights would seek to change that. The bill was created through a partnership between federal lawmakers and the National Domestic Workers Alliance, or NDWA. If the bill passes, it would provide training programs as well as a wage and standards board.

It also calls for cooperation between the Labor Department, Health and Human Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally, it would provide for written employment contracts and overtime pay. While it is unclear how much it would cost to implement the new legislation, the bill's sponsors say that the cost of doing nothing is already too high. Domestic workers will likely be in high demand as the American population continues to age.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that there will likely be an additional 1.2 million home health jobs available by 2026. The NDWA says that a majority of domestic workers are women of color, and data from 2012 found that 90% of these individuals were women of any ethnicity. In that year, there were roughly 2 million people working in American homes.

If an employer violates a worker's civil rights, the employer could face financial and other penalties. Workers may be entitled to back pay if they are terminated or if they were paid less than the prevailing minimum wage. They might also be entitled to punitive or other damages depending on the facts of the case. An attorney may use text messages, witness statements or other evidence to show that a company was in the wrong.

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