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Questions and Answers with Bob King, Esq. of Legally® Nanny Regarding the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights

September 3, 2012

by Michelle LaRowe
Editor-in-Chief

With the media coverage surrounding California bill AB889, also referred to as the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, I thought it was a good time to consult with the industry’s legal expert on all things nanny, Bob King, Esq. Here’s what he had to share about the CA bill and how it could affect our industry.

eNannySource: What is the California Domestic Worker’s Bill of Rights?

Bob: AB 889 is a bill proposed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco, one of the most liberal members of the Assembly.  As originally drafted, it would have required annual pay raises, paid vacation and sick days, and meal and rest periods for domestic employees, as well as providing for a private right of action as an incentive for people to sue.

However the bill could not pass in that form and was repeatedly amended.  It now requires the California Department of Industrial Relations to adopt regulations regarding the working conditions of domestic employees.  However such regulations already exist under California Wage Order 15 and therefore the bill is duplicative and unnecessary.

eNannySource:  How will it affect nanny employers, if passed?

Bob: We don’t know what regulations the Department would create, so it’s impossible to say precisely what the affects will be on nanny employers.  That being said, any additional regulations almost certainly will make hiring nannies more expensive and complicated.  As a result, families will have a greater incentive to choose daycare or hire under the table as easier and less expensive alternatives.  Thus the irony of this inaptly named bill is that it almost certainly will exacerbate nannies’ working conditions, not improve them.

eNannySource: Aren’t there basic worker protections already in place that protect nannies in California?

Bob: Absolutely.  Nannies already receive overtime of time and a half after 40 hours per week.  Employers already must provide worker’s compensation coverage for nannies, and in fact virtually all household employers have such coverage as part of their existing homeowner’s insurance policies.  California’s minimum wage is one of the highest in the country, and San Francisco’s minimum wage is even higher.

eNannySource: Meal and rest breaks don’t seem practical in nanny work. Traditionally the nanny eats with the children and has down time while younger children nap or older children are in school. What gives?

Bob: Exactly.  This bill is a misguided effort to impose standards for other workers, such as those who work in an office, on domestic employees where such requirements are completely impractical.  The reason a family needs childcare is because the mom or dad can’t come home in the middle of the day so the nanny can go to lunch.  Similarly, a nanny can’t just decide to take a 10 minute smoke break and leave the children alone inside the house.  Further, as your question indicates, nannies do have time to eat with the family or take a break when a child is napping.  However rigid governmental mandates — imposed on employers who aren’t even there to ensure they occur — don’t work in a household like they do with a 9-5 office job.  Thus, these are onerous solutions in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.

eNannySource: Aren’t living conditions for live-in nannies and overtime pay rate things that should be ironed out in a nanny work agreement?

Bob: Right again.  Compensation is a classic example of something that a family and a nanny should decide privately.  The nanny knows what she needs to earn and the family knows what it can pay.  They are in the best position to decide compensation and working arrangements, not the government that knows nothing about their situation.  Additionally, if a nanny wants a certain level of pay or benefits, she should negotiate for it or not take the job if it doesn’t offer what she wants; you don’t need the law for that.  For example, in the San Francisco Bay area, nannies regularly make more than $20 per hour; they don’t need the minimum wage for that, the market requires it because the nannies won’t accept less.

I also agree that all terms of compensation and working conditions should be in a written work agreement.  Having such an agreement avoids ambiguities and misunderstandings which can lead to disputes.  The agreement is fair for the nanny and the family because each side puts down the terms in black and white and agrees to them.  Every nanny should have a written work agreement.

eNannySource: Where can interested parties learn more?

Bob:  People can learn more about the bill at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=ab_889&sess=CUR&house=B&author=ammiano . This is the state’s official site for legislative information.

In 2003, Bob King, Esq. founded Legally Nanny, the leading law firm providing legal and tax advice to household employers and domestic employment and homecare agencies. Bob represents household employers, domestic employment and homecare agencies, businesses and individuals in a wide variety of legal matters, including defending against claims and litigation from employees and charges and investigations from government agencies. 

Bob advises clients on hiring, evaluation, accommodation and termination matters; wage and hour issues; workplace policies, handbooks, agreements and contracts; and resolving client and business disputes. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Private Duty Association (NPDA), and as the General Counsel for the Association of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA). Bob previously served on the Board of Directors for the International Nanny Association (INA), and is also an active member of the California Association for Health Services at Home (CAHSAH). 

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