California Domestic Workers Coalition

Cal/Matters |

Martha Herrera worked for four years as a nanny in San Francisco, helping to care for a little girl who has physical and developmental disabilities. 

The job included helping the girl get home from school, and carrying her and bathing her. One day while carrying the child, who had just started to walk at age 8, Herrera slipped and injured her back. 

The conversation with the child’s parents was awkward and brief. They gave Herrera $300 as compensation for medical expenses and never reached out again, she said. The injury kept her out of work for three months. 

“They just said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry; that’s too bad,’” Herrera said, 56, through a Spanish interpreter. “I felt not valued and disposable.” 

In that employment arrangement there were few places for Herrera to turn. Domestic workers — those who are privately hired to provide services in a home — aren’t covered by the state’s or the nation’s occupational safety laws, which require most employers to meet standards to prevent injury and ensure a safe place to work. 

That could change soon. A proposal in the state Senate sponsored by the California Domestic Workers Coalition would remove the exclusion, opening the door for the state’s Division of Occupational Health and Safety (CalOSHA) to issue workplace safety rules for any household employing a domestic worker.