Nannies, maids in California to get overtime pay

Guillermima Castellamos, a former maid now an organizer for National Domestic Workers Alliance, holds a cardboard cutout during a news conference calling on the California legislature to pass a domestic workers Bill of Rights in Los Angeles, Sept. 10, 2013. On Thursday, Gov. Brown signed a law allowing domestic workers in the state to get paid overtime.

Nannies and other domestic workers in California will be entitled to overtime pay under a new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown, in a second major victory for lower-paid workers this week in the most populous U.S. state. 

The law, which passed the legislature in the waning days of its session on party-line votes and signed on Thursday, will require employers to pay time-and-a-half overtime to any nanny, housekeeper, maid or personal attendant who works more than nine hours in one day, or 45 hours in a week. 

The move came just a day after Brown, a Democrat, signed legislation to make California the first state in the nation to commit to raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, with the increase to take place gradually through the start of 2016. 

Both laws appeared aimed at helping lower-wage workers in a Democratic-led state where the cost of living is among the highest in the country. Republicans said the moves could backfire by forcing employers to cut hours or hire fewer people. 

Domestic employment agencies argued that the law providing overtime to nannies and other personal attendants could push such care out of the reach of many families and ultimately cost domestic workers their jobs. 

"Domestic workers are primarily women of color, many of them immigrants, and their work has not been respected in the past," said Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, the law's author. "Now, they will be entitled to overtime, like just about every other California working person." 

Some household employees were already entitled to overtime under existing California law. But those who spent more than 80 percent of their time caring for others were exempted. 

The new rights for nannies and personal attendants go into effect on January 1. But they are not permanent. Under a sunset clause, the protections would end in 2017 if they are not extended by the legislature. 

Marcela Escamilla, a domestic worker and activist from San Francisco, said the new law would encourage in-home employees in other states to press for overtime. 

"This is a big step for respecting and recognizing domestic work as real work, and the fight doesn't stop here," Escamilla said. "The fire for this movement will now burn brighter for domestic workers across the country fighting for the same recognition." 

The new California law adds to federal protections extended to many home health aides earlier this month, in which the U.S. Department of Labor issued rules requiring many such aides and personal care assistants to be paid minimum wage for each hour worked, and overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week. 

The federal rules, which take effect in 2015, only apply to in-home workers placed by outside agencies.