Domestic workers

Discrimination protections for domestic workers approved to be sent to governor | Legislature

A bill to protect thousands of domestic workers from employment discrimination passed the state legislature on Monday.

House Bill 1367 is now being sent to Governor Jared Polis for final review.

If enacted, the legislation will expand Colorado’s anti-discrimination law to cover employees who work for private households, such as cleaners, gardeners, nannies or seniors. The bill would also extend the time to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission from 180 to 300 days and increase the damages recoverable in age discrimination cases.

“Having basic protections for domestic workers is extremely important,” said Sen. Faith Winter, D-Westminster, who is sponsoring the bill. “Workers are often in a power dynamic where they are more easily harassed, more easily discriminated against and abused. This power dynamic is even more important when you walk into someone’s home.

Colorado’s anti-discrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of disability, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, and nationality. If the bill were enacted, the state estimates it would result in about 200 additional discrimination complaints being filed each year.

Senators passed the bill Monday in a 20-15 vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans in opposition. The House passed the bill in a similar 40-23 party line vote last month.

Republican lawmakers have described hiring domestic workers as a private decision in which the state should not interfere, arguing that employers should be allowed to consider factors such as gender, religion and nationality when making decisions. hiring workers.

“My mother has particular opinions, she has a particular religion, she is 93 years old, she is anchored in her habits. I’m not going to hire just anybody,” said Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs. “(Under the bill,) I can’t put an ad in the paper for a caretaker for my mom that says, ‘Wanted: Reliable older woman with good Christian values. “”

The bill’s drafters said gender, age and religion in some cases are bona fide occupational qualifications already protected by state law and existing case law. They also passed an amendment to the bill clarifying that it would not be discriminatory to consider gender when hiring an employee for childcare-related work.

Although opponents argued the bill would leave home-based employers vulnerable to lawsuits, supporters of the bill said it’s the workers who need protection.

“The reason domestic workers are excluded from our employment laws is based on our country’s white supremacist history,” Winter said. “These are typically low-income women of color, some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

The Colorado Women’s Bar Association said the landmark decision not to include domestic workers in job protections was intended to exclude industries in which newly emancipated slaves worked at the start of the Jim Crow era.

In 2020, 2.2 million people worked as domestic workers in the United States – of which 91.5% were women and 52.4% were people of color, according to a report by the Institute for Economic Policy. Domestic workers are also disproportionately older, foreign-born and live in poverty.

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