Washington State House Democrats


Bill concerning the usage of ‘master’ and ‘servant’ terms in employment law passes House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee

OLYMPIA — Rep. Mary Fosse, D-Everett, introduced House Bill 1107 to remove the terms “master” and “servant” from unemployment insurance and state paid family and medical leave law. The terms, which are currently used to define the relationship between an employer and employee, are racist and outdated. HB 1107 would replace these terms with “any employment relationship” to create a more inclusive and consistent definition in law. HB 1107 cleared its first legislative milestone on January 20th when it was voted out of the House Labor & Workplace Standards Committee unanimously.

“As a state actively pursuing anti-racism and building an equitable employment system, removing these terms brings us one step closer towards achieving cultural competency” said Rep. Fosse. “This language is completely unacceptable. It undermines the both the value of people of color and the value of workers in our economy. The worth of both employees and employers goes beyond these antiquated terms.”

These terms originate in English common law and are rooted in a history of slavery and racism. By removing them, we can make our law both more inclusive and more accurate.
“Words matter,” said Rep. Julia Reed, D-Queen Anne, who cosponsored HB 1107. “They hold power and dictate the direction our society is moving. These words represent the legacy of slavery. They fundamentally define an unequal relationship between employers and employees. As a state, we have an obligation to remove these relics and empower both employees and employers to ensure an economy that is equitable and just.”

The bill was heard in committee on Wednesday, Jan. 11. It now heads to the House Rules Committee.