California’s Nanny State Nanny Law
The California Assembly, faced with such difficult tasks as prison overcrowding, the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, one of the worst business climates in the nation, and a broken education financing policy (article forthcoming), apparently has prioritized the issue of overworked babysitters, courtesy of a bill introduced by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). From the OC Register:
A bill pending in the state Senate would require breaks for that babysitter. These include a 10-minute break for every two hours worked and a 30-minute meal break after five hours on the job.
. . . .
The bill, called the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, would require that people who hire domestic workers not only pay them minimum wage (currently $8 an hour), but also pay overtime and provide workers’ compensation. Employers would also have to keep time records and issue paychecks.
At one point there was a provision for paid vacation time for full-time employees, but that has been scrapped.
AB 889, dubbed the Babysitter’s Bill, is supposed to close loopholes in the state’s current labor laws. Under existing law, people hiring domestic workers are exempted from the requirement to provide workers’ compensation if their employees do not work full-time. This new law would remove the exemption.
The Assembly already passed the bill and is expected to easily win approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Senator Doug LaMalfa reacts, and Adam Summers at Reason Foundation rounds out some of the remaining common sense objections. Here are some of the most vexing concerns after reading the text of the bill:
- Parents will have to hire two babysitters in order that each can receive 10-minute breaks every two hours and a 30-minute lunch every five hours, as required by law.
- Parents will have to pay each babysitter the state minimum wage, currently $8 per hour, plus overtime.
- Parents must provide worker’s compensation insurance.
- Parents will need to provide detailed paystubs including “an accurate itemized statement in writing showing (1) gross wages earned, (2) total hours worked by the employee…, (3) the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis, (4) all deductions …, (5) net wages earned, (6) the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid, (7) the name of the employee and his or her social security number …, (8) the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer, and (9) all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee.” This statement must list all deductions, which “shall be recorded in ink or other indelible form, properly dated, showing the month, day, and year, and a copy of the statement or a record of the deductions shall be kept on file by the employer for at least three years at the place of employment or at a central location within the State of California.” Parents likely will be forced to consult professional tax and/or legal services concerning the complete and accurate reporting of “all deductions,” how to prepare the statement in the proper format, and what a “piece-rate unit” is.
- Parents who “knowingly and intentionally” fail to comply with any of the above will be liable for attorneys’ fees and costs, plus a minimum $50 for the first violation and $100 for each subsequent violation.
- Parents who fail to respond within 21 days to a demand to inspect any of the information above are subject to a $750 fine.
- Live-in nannies must be given eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night; there is a rebuttable presumption the nanny did not receive the amount of sleep required by law.
- Live-in nannies must be given 12 consecutive hours of free time each day (including eight for uninterrupted sleep, above).
- Parents must give babysitters written notice of the provisions of Labor Code 3550, making the notice available in both English and Spanish.
Those are just the highlights.
The new law means dollar signs to established nanny service providers. Such providers will be better able to absorb the administrative and legal costs of developing workplace policies and accounting guidelines, preparing legal and accounting forms, and drafting standard agreements in order to allay parents’ fears about compliance with their myriad legal obligations just to hire a babysitter. This is likely why the CEO of eNannySource.com, Steve Lampert, has admonished parents to “calm down” and “Don’t get upset about it. Don’t get hysterical about it. You’ll be able to work it out very well with your caregiver.” Mr. Lampert offers no explanation why parents shouldn’t worry, of course. That’s what the new law will force parents to pay him for.
On the bright side, the bill only applies to babysitters 18 years of age or older, and does not apply to family members. Moreover, the bill apparently is primarily directed at caregivers for the disabled and elderly; parents who rely on babysitters are just collateral damage. To that extent, however, mom Jeanne Sager is concerned:
Not only do you have to do the impossible of tracking down a responsible college kid to hang with your tot on a Friday night so you can actually sit down for one meal where you don’t have to cut up someone else’s food. Now you have to find TWO of them. And the second one will have to agree to just show up every two hours for 15 minutes at minimum wage. AND you’re going to have to explain to your 3-year-old why Miss Madison has to get up from the rousing game of SpongeBob Memory to go outside and take a break while this other guy comes in … for 15 minutes.
This sort of “nanny” law is nothing new. In a previous thread, a commenter shared a story about new regulations requiring that goat herders be provided “separate sleeping unit[s]” and “a comfortable bed” (whatever that means), and that wall surfaces in cooking areas be made of “easy-to-clean material” (whatever that means). I have little doubt Jesse Ewiak’s indignant response to that story will be the template liberal response to AB 889: “Shockingly, yes, even goat herders [and babysitters] should be treated well where they work. And the government has the power to make the owners of goat ranches [and parents of small children] comply.” I’m willing to stipulate that goat herders and babysitters “should be treated well where they work” (again, whatever that means). But this is not the relevant question in political governance. The relevant question is, when should the law enforce these normative duties? Typically, that question is answered something along the lines of: “When there is a demonstrated pattern of abuse.” Is there such a pattern when it comes to goat herding? I had not seen evidence of it. Nor, apparently, had Mr. Ewiak, though that did not stop him from defending the new regulations. But why should anyone do so in absence of that crucial evidence? This lack of evidence is why I was confused at the urgency to whip up new goat herding rules, and even more confused at anyone’s willingness to defend those rules.
I would be similarly curious to know why anyone unequipped with evidence of a pattern of abuse against babysitters would volunteer to defend AB 889.