Rhode Island General Assembly Approves Bill to End Minimum Wage Exemption for Domestic Workers

The Rhode Island General Assembly has approved a bill to extend the state’s minimum wage protections to domestic workers. The legislation (2024-S 2021, 2024-H 7532) now awaits the governor’s signature.

Despite incremental increases in Rhode Island’s minimum wage over the years, domestic workers have been left out. Under the current state minimum wage law, these workers are not classified as employees, excluding them from wage protections. The newly passed bill aims to remove this exemption.

Senator Euer (D-District 13, Newport, Jamestown), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, emphasized the importance of this legislative change. “There’s no reason some workers shouldn’t have minimum wage protections just because they work in households,” she stated. “This bill extends a very basic protection to some of our most essential workers while removing one of the most puzzling statutes in Rhode Island law.”

Representative Felix (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) echoed this sentiment, highlighting the bill’s broader implications. “Domestic workers are employees just like workers in any other industry in Rhode Island. They are also disproportionately women, people of color, and immigrants. This is the year to end this discriminatory exemption,” she said.

The bill proposes to eliminate the clause that currently categorizes “any individual employed in domestic service or in or about a private home” as not being an employee under Rhode Island’s minimum wage laws. At present, domestic workers in Rhode Island are only assured the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

The existing disparity in minimum wage law significantly affects women and people of color. According to the Economic Policy Institute, 90% of domestic workers in the United States are women, with over 51% being Black, Hispanic, or Asian American and Pacific Islander women.

The bill has garnered support from various organizations, including domestic workers’ groups, the AFL-CIO, the Rhode Island ACLU, the Economic Progress Institute, SEIU 1199, and the Rhode Island Center for Justice.




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