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HBO’s John Oliver won Mother’s Day by highlighting that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that does not offer paid maternity leave to new parents. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take 12 weeks off after having a baby and not get fired, but those weeks are unpaid.

But one important point was missing from Oliver’s impassioned plea: The people earning the least in our economy—the young, the less educated, and women of color—are also the most likely to not have access to maternity leave, paid or unpaid, according to research from the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank.

In fact, domestic workers—a group that is disproportionately made up of women of color—are excluded from even the most basic protections that The Family and Medical Leave Act provides.

That means that if domestic workers are experiencing morning sickness, heck, they have to go to work, because they don’t even have paid sick days.


Source: Center for American Progress’ analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, 2011.

The majority of nannies, house cleaners and elder caregivers in the U.S. are women of color, according to Census data. They’re also often of childbearing age, according to the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a group that pushes states to add worker protections for these workers, who toil behind closed doors in private residences.


Currently even the most progressive legislation being introduced at state levels would only offer domestic workers protection from being fired if they take maternity leave.