Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday May 11th, 2016, 4:12pm

Illinois Senate Passes Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights

Legislation to create a "Domestic Workers Bill of Rights" in Illinois passed the state Senate Wednesday, bringing caregivers and house cleaners one step closer to greater job security and improved working conditions.

The bill, which the House approved last May, now goes back to the lower chamber for a final vote, according to the Illinois Domestic Workers Coalition.

The domestic workforce, mostly made up of women, has historically been excluded from protections under state and federal laws extended to workers in other industries.

The proposed "Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights Act" is meant to ensure that domestic workers in Illinois are paid no less than the minimum wage, receive at least one day off a week and have protections against sexual harassment.

If approved, the legislation would make Illinois the sixth state to adopt a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights and the seventh to provide basic labor protections to such workers. Massachusetts, California, New York, Oregon and Hawaii already have a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.

State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) and state Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) are the legislation's chief sponsors in their respective chambers. A version of the proposal was first introduced in Illinois back in February 2013.

"The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights will help establish a baseline of protections for domestic workers in Illinois," Silverstein said in a statement. "The plan will ensure this valued workforce receives the same rights and protections as other workers and will be able to provide for their families."

Many in-home workers are susceptible to exploitation on the job because they typically do not have employment contracts with their employer and often work in the shadows, according to worker advocates.

Under the proposal, domestic workers in Illinois such as nannies, house cleaners and caregivers would be covered under the state's Minimum Wage Law, the Wages of Women and Minors Act, the One Day Rest in Seven Act and provisions of the Human Rights Act.

"Domestic workers have been a critical part of our homes and economy, freeing up the time and attention of working families across this state. And as a working parent, I have experienced first-hand just how important their work is," Hernandez added. "The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights is a historic moment for Illinois, helping to not only professionalize the industry, but also elevate the quality of care for our working families."

Magdalena Zylinska is among the 35,000 estimated domestic workers in Illinois. She's a housecleaner in Chicago who helps organize domestic workers with the Arise Chicago worker center.

"We do the work that makes all other work possible," she said. "To support my family, I have gone to work on days that I was sick, worried that otherwise I would not be able to pay for my mortgage. The Bill of Rights would help women like me receive the same protections as other workers, and would give employers proper guidelines."

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