Rafaela Ser­rano, L’14, burst with emo­tion as she described wit­nessing Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Deval Patrick sign into law a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights ear­lier this summer. Joy, pride, accomplishment—it was a whirl­wind of sen­ti­ments from the North­eastern stu­dent in the School of Law’s LLM pro­gram. That moment on a July morning at the State­house marked the cul­mi­na­tion of four years of work she and many other com­mu­nity groups and mem­bers of Northeastern’s School of Law com­mu­nity put forth to make the bill a reality.

It was a pow­erful moment for me and many others,” Ser­rano said. “I felt so touched to know that we edu­cated people, orga­nized our­selves, and advo­cated for these issues.”

Ser­rano, a native of Brazil, served as vice pres­i­dent of Boston’s Brazilian Immi­grant Center when the move­ment began to take shape in 2010 with the founding of the Mass­a­chu­setts Coali­tion for Domestic Workers—comprising the center and four other com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tions. (She later served as the center’s pres­i­dent from May 2011 to Aug. 2013) A con­ven­tion was held the next year, which con­tinued to lay the ground­work for iden­ti­fying basic labor pro­tec­tions that weren’t avail­able to house­keepers, nan­nies, and other domestic workers.

This summer, Mass­a­chu­setts became fourth U.S. state to enact such leg­is­la­tion. Included in the state’s new law are the require­ment for employers to pro­vide written con­tracts that clearly define domestic workers’ job respon­si­bil­i­ties and hours, pro­tec­tions against sexual harass­ment, and pro­vi­sions for mater­nity leave. Some of the law’s pro­vi­sions go into effect this fall, and others will roll out in April 2015.

Rafaela Serrano, L'14, with Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick at the Statehouse for the signing ceremony for the state's Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Photo courtesy of Rafaela Serrano.

Rafaela Ser­rano, L’14, with Mass­a­chu­setts Gov. Deval Patrick at the State­house for the signing cer­e­mony for the state’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Photo cour­tesy of Rafaela Serrano.

Many mem­bers of the North­eastern School of Law com­mu­nity par­tic­i­pated in this effort, most notably Monica Halas, L’78, of Greater Boston Legal Ser­vices. The North­eastern alumna played a pri­mary role in crafting the leg­is­la­tion and was the attorney for the Mass­a­chu­setts Coali­tion for Domestic Workers, which was focused on securing these rights for domestic workers.

This was a cam­paign on a whole dif­ferent level,” Halas said. “There were many inspi­ra­tional people who were involved in this. It takes a vil­lage to pass a bill. That was cer­tainly true here, more so than any­thing I’ve ever worked on.”

Halas also hailed Northeastern’s co-​​op pro­gram. She said she’s worked with many co-​​op stu­dents during her 35-​​year career at Greater Boston Legal Ser­vices who have pro­vided impor­tant research work on many issues, including for this Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Co-​​op stu­dents’ work on the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights included preparing fact sheets, pre­sen­ta­tions, and more than 20 in-​​depth legal mem­o­randa as the bill went through dozens of drafts. In fact, one of her cur­rent co-​​op stu­dents is now updating a hand­book on domestic workers’ rights—developed sev­eral years ago by North­eastern law students—to align with the new legislation.

I have super­vised many co-​​op stu­dents over the years,” Halas said. “They bring a can-​​do atti­tude, they work well inde­pen­dently, and they play a big role in this work.”

These efforts also high­light the con­tinued work of the NuLawLab, launched last year at the School of Law to explore new avenues for deliv­ering legal infor­ma­tion and edu­cating lawyers in order to increase com­mu­nity mem­bers’ access to the legal ser­vices they need. The lab builds on the School of Law’s long­standing focus on social jus­tice issues.

For one of its first projects, the lab part­nered with Studio REV-​​, the Brazilian Immi­grant Center, and MIT’s Center for Civic Media to develop a hot­line and text-​​messaging app for domestic workers to get infor­ma­tion about their legal rights„ which is still in beta form. For her part, Serrano’s work at NuLawLab involves doing a com­par­a­tive analysis of Brazil’s and Mass­a­chu­setts’ laws relating to domestic workers. This work, part of an inde­pen­dent study, will even­tu­ally be incor­po­rated into the app.

NuLawLab Exec­u­tive Director Dan Jackson said the project builds upon the law school’s long­time rela­tion­ship with the Brazilian Immi­grant Center. “The center has been a won­derful com­mu­nity partner,” he said.

Ser­rano also plans to pursue her doc­torate in polit­ical sci­ence with a focus on public policy, and she hopes one day to run for gov­ern­ment in Brazil.

My work on this bill strength­ened my belief in doing what I believe in: social jus­tice,” she said.