California Domestic Workers Coalition

San Francisco Chronicle |

Martha Herrera loves her work as a nanny but sometimes it is physically challenging. One of her young charges, who was physically disabled, needed to be lifted in the bathroom. As the child grew bigger, it was harder for Herrrera, now 55, to keep up. Eventually she wrenched her back. The child’s parents gave Herrera a mere $300 in compensation. That’s when she knew she had to quit. “It was really hard because she was a wonderful, sweet child, but I also had to think about my health,” Herrera said in Spanish through an interpreter.

She hopes that other domestic workers won’t face situations where they might jeopardize their health or safety, thanks to new voluntary guidelines California issued on Friday to ensure that homes are safer workplaces. Advocates laud this as a landmark: The nation’s first creation of parameters around the treatment of in-home child care providers, home health aides, gardeners, cooks, cleaners, day laborers and others who work in private homes.

In California some 300,000 people, largely women and largely people of color, do domestic work. Herrera was among 18 people — workers, employers, advocates, health and safety experts — who drafted the rules as members of the California Employment Safety Standards Advisory Committee on Household Domestic Services, established under Senate Bill 321. The committee also issued policy recommendations that they hope will lead to new legislation this year.