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Nora Kennelly, 3, picnics with her nanny, Ty Messiah, in the sun atop a wall overlooking the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016.
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Nora Kennelly, 3, picnics with her nanny, Ty Messiah, in the sun atop a wall overlooking the Space Needle and downtown Seattle, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016.
Credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Seattle aims to protect nannies, gardeners and home cooks

Seattle officials have pushed legislation to protect nannies, gardeners, and home-cooks while on the job.

The measure would ban workplace discrimination or harassment against all domestic workers. Private-sector and government employees in Seattle already receive that protection.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda says she's heard stories of harassment against domestic workers, who often work alone in private residences.

Mosqueda: "With the ongoing conversations that we've been having with domestic workers and hiring entities, this is the last critical piece of the puzzle."

The city adopted a domestic workers bill of rights weeks ago, requiring that these workers earn at least the minimum wage, rest breaks, and other rights.

A council committee approved the new, anti-discrimination measure Tuesday.

It's scheduled for a final vote on September 17th.

Labor rights advocates say domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to harassment.

Inez Peñaloza, a domestic worker with Casa Latina, testified before the City Council this week through an interpreter. She said she was touched inappropriately on the job.

"I was feeling very uncomfortable and I couldn't continue working with ease because the patron, employer was touching me every now and then," she said.

Peñaloza said she didn't know what to do, but that the law the city is proposing would have helped her.

If the measure passes, the city will lead outreach efforts so that workers know their rights. The city’s Office of Labor Standards enforces the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which concerns pay and benefits. The city’s Office of Civil rights is likely to enforce the anti-discrimination protections, though both offices may work together on outreach.