May 15, 2012 - Metro: Help Line for City's Nannies

By ALISON BOWEN

The city's nannies now have a new way to learn whether they're getting paid fairly.

Domestic Workers United, a caregivers rights group, announced a hotline today with information on overtime for both nannies and employers.

A 2010 state law requires parents to pay nannies overtime after 40 hours.

But a study by Park Slope Parents, an online forum, found that 44 percent of Brooklyn parents do not pay time-and-a-half to their nannies after 40 hours, like the law requires. Just 16 percent reported that they pay more.

"The average worker's workweek is about 50 to 60 hours, and they're not getting overtime," said Priscilla Gonzalez at the Domestic Workers United.

Nannies said conversations about pay can be delicate – sitters don't want to antagonize employers by declining an extra hour, even if the law backs them up.

"Since there's no written-out contract, sometimes if they're like, 'Can you do this extra hour,' I'll feel obligated to," said Bedford Stuyvesant resident Natalie, 25, who has worked for three families uptown, all positive experiences, she said.

Another nanny said her employers pay for her MetroCard and meals. She is paid if she works late, she said. But, she added, she's only paid at her regular rate, despite arriving at 5:45 a.m. every day for work.

Still, she added, "I've heard many disaster stories, and every other nanny envies my position."

What are the legal requirements?

The state Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights gives nannies the following rights:
- Overtime pay at time-and-a-half after 40 hours of work in one week, or 44 hours for live-in workers
- One day off every seven days, or overtime pay if nannies agree to work that day
- Three paid vacation days each year after a year of work for the same person
- The Domestic Workers United hotline provides more information at 646-699-3989.

Parents respond

Some parents choose to make their own arrangements with nannies.

One Ditmas Park mom pays her nanny $17 per hour for a typically 50-hour workweek, plus two weeks paid vacation and 12 paid holidays a year.

After the law was passed, she said, she consulted her nanny, and they agreed to keep the arrangement as is.

"If we were paying minimum wage, then I would feel like we were truly breaking the law," she explained.

Another mother, who lives in Boerum Hill, was surprised to hear about the law. They pay their nanny $615 each week, which includes two weeks of paid vacation and holidays. They also never ask her to do housekeeping, which the nanny was asked to do at her previous job.

Their nanny's workweek is about 45 hours a week – five past the legal standard for overtime.

"I hadn't heard that," she told Metro. This is her first nanny, who started with their infant in April.

As a salaried worker, she supports workers' rights groups but does not feel she's mistreating her nanny, she said.

"I've never been paid overtime, and I've never had just a straightforward 40-hour week," she said. "I don't feel like I'm shortchanging anybody."

Paid in coffee for overtime

One Park Slope nanny with 20 years of experience told Metro she agreed to a lower rate than she'd been making -- $16.50, down from $17 – because the employer promised a raise to $18 after six months.

The mother promised to pay her and give her coffee for late nights, the nanny said.

But when she worked until 9 p.m., a 13-hour day, the mother would pay her the regular rate, telling her she was paying her "extra" for the late hours, she said.

"Then, when I asked about the coffee, she said, 'I give you $16.50 extra, and that is for the coffee,'" she said. "I looked at her like, 'What?'"

She only recently learned of the law from a Domestic Workers United worker.

Still, she said she was afraid to bring up pay complaints to her employer, fearing the mother might fire her if she brought up overtime.

Regardless, she was told last week that her last day would be this Thursday, she suspects because she was not doing housework, not included in her job description.

"It is not right," she told Metro. "It is not good for us because a lot of baby sitters do a lot of work, and they do not get the money that they deserve."

Read more: http://www.metro.us/newyork/local/article/1143107--help-line-for-city-s-nannies--page0

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