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Does Maryland need a domestic workers' bill of rights?

Two years ago, the nation's first bill of rights for domestic workers was enacted. Now, it appears several additional states may follow suit, including Maryland.

These statutes that apply to domestic workers are meant to ensure they are paid at least minimum wage and time-and-a-half for overtime, are not made to work seven days a week, and are offered vacation, among other things. However, there is some trouble making sure that families who hire domestic workers comply with such standards.

In New York, where a domestic workers bill of rights was adopted in 2010, the labor department has recovered about $250,000 in unpaid wages for domestic workers since the law went into effect. However, roadblocks still exist because many domestic workers, and sometimes the families that hire them, are not aware of the employment laws that apply to them.

One of the issues is that a number of domestic workers are immigrants who may be either unaware of their rights, or afraid to speak up.

These and other hurdles have made it difficult to govern the employment of nannies, housekeepers and other domestic workers in Maryland, too. However, back in 2010 Montgomery County enacted a law requiring employers of domestic workers to use a written contract to establish job conditions and benefits. The county also published a model contract that lays out employment terms.

Whether Maryland attempts to tackle this issue at a state level remains to be seen. For now, those who hire domestic workers may be wise to seek legal counsel to draft an employment contract. Even though a domestic workers bill of rights is not on the books, it could still be possible to violate state or federal law in the employment terms of a nanny or housekeeper. Additionally, those who feel their rights may have been violated are also wise to seek an advocate.

Source: delmarvanow.com, "Maryland to adopt nanny labor law," Michael Virtanen, Sept. 28, 2012

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