Legislation passed today by the Senate would direct state agencies to work with in-home care providers to develop protocols to protect long-term caregivers from harassment, abuse and discrimination.

“Sadly, it took the tragic shootings of a caregiver and a patient and a resident last year to bring attention to this need, but the truth is that caregivers have been facing harassment and discrimination in private home settings for some time,” Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver) said. “These caregivers work in isolated settings, are often women and people of color, and may feel afraid to report abusive behavior for fear of retaliation.”

Senate Bill 6205, sponsored by Cleveland, would:

  • direct the state Department of Social and Health Services to convene a stakeholder work group to recommend best practices for training employers, workers, and service recipients to keep home care settings free from discrimination and abusive conduct;
  • establish boundaries that define abusive conduct, discriminatory harassment, inappropriate sexual behavior, physical sexual aggression, sexual contact, sexual harassment, workplace physical and verbal aggression, and workplace violence;
  • authorize the Department of Labor & Industries to enforce requirements governing worker training, recordkeeping and retaliation; and
  • provide culturally competent peer-to-peer training for caregivers.

“Because they work in homes, caregivers have no coworkers to turn to for advice and have limited options in how to go about reporting inappropriate behavior by a client,” said Cleveland, who chairs the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee. “This is a critical first step to establish clearer boundaries so that caregivers can better know what to expect, how to deescalate a situation, how and when to report a situation, and what to do if a situation becomes unsafe.”

Having passed the Senate by a vote of 37-11, SB 6205 now goes to the House of Representatives.