Fighting for Women's Equality

Righting a National Wrong: California’s New Overtime Protections

September 15, 2016 | by

The Golden State shines a little brighter this week. With two strokes of his pen, Governor Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown finally put an end to decades of second-class status for the hardworking Californians who harvest the food we eat and take care of the homes and people we love, signing into law two bills that extend overtime rights to domestic workers and farmworkers across the state.

  • SB 1015 (Leyva), also known as the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, guarantees permanent overtime protections for more than 300,000 domestic workers who serve as nannies, house cleaners, and caregivers in this state. ERA was proud to work with the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the entire Stronger California Advocates Network to support this critical legislation, which will ensure dignity and advance economic security for millions of working women and their families.
  • AB 1066 (Gonzalez) expands overtime for farmworkers, who currently are entitled to receive overtime pay only when they work more than 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week. This historic legislation phases in overtime rules so that farmworkers become eligible for overtime after 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week by 2022. This bill will make California the first state in the country to give farmworkers equal rights to overtime pay.

These two laws mark the beginning of an end to a long and shameful era of specifically excluding farmworkers and domestic workers from basic labor and employment rights, including the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This history of exclusion is no mere fluke or oversight; it is directly related to who performs these jobs. Then and now, men and women of color and immigrants make up the vast majority of the people doing domestic work and farm work in this country. In 1938, most of these workers were African American. Today, most farmworkers are Latino and the overwhelming majority of domestic workers continue to be women of color. Many workers in both sectors are immigrants – some documented, some not. They perform some of the most physically-demanding jobs with pay and working conditions at levels most Americans would not tolerate.

Governor Brown became the first governor to begin to address the discriminatory pay practices against farmworkers when he signed legislation in 1976 to establish time-and-a-half pay after 10 hours worked in a day or 60 hours worked in a week. Three years ago, he also signed the first California Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which granted basic wage and hour protections to these workers on a temporary basis. SB 1015 removes the sunset provision in that law, so that instead of expiring next year, these overtime rights will become permanent, ending generations of exclusion from California’s basic labor protections.

Domestic workers and farm workers have labored for far too long under a separate and unequal set of rules. And they have organized and fought for years to secure rights that most of us take for granted. This week, California took an important step toward ending this national wrong. Now, it is time for the rest of the country to follow our lead.

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