Kyne: Awareness imperative for nanny rights

On Nov. 29, 2010 New York State passed the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, and today a number of states are considering passing similar laws.

Yet recent studies have found that many nannies in New York either do not know about the law or work for parents who believe that the law does not apply to them. Although the law is a noteworthy one, there is more to be done.

People working in child care must be treated properly and professionally. The poor treatment of nannies must be made public, and the fight for their workers’ rights must continue.

The 2010 law states that a work day must be eight hours, that overtime must be paid at the rate of pay and a half and that a domestic worker must be given three paid days off per year. In addition, domestic workers are entitled to workers’ compensation insurance and protection against workplace violence.

The law calls for nannies to receive one day off every week with the condition that if they decide to work on that day, they be paid overtime. California, Washington, Massachusetts, Hawaii and Maryland are considering putting forth similar legislation.

Most of us have taken this law for granted. It is shameful that there are thousands of people working in this country, taking care of and raising children, who are not treated in accordance with their legal rights.

The bill, however, has led to some improvements: the New York State Department of Labor investigated 80 cases since the law was passed in 2010 and has recovered $250,000 in unpaid wages for domestic workers. While this is a success, it is a small one, for there are many workers who are not aware of the law.

Leo Rosales, spokesman for the New York State Department of Labor, has said that getting the word out about this law has been incredibly difficult.

In 2011 the Park Slope Parents group conducted a survey in which they interviewed over 1,000 parents in Brooklyn, N.Y. The group’s findings showed that 15 percent paid nannies overtime, while 44 percent paid them the same rate after 40 hours. Only 17 percent had proper records of work hours.

When it came to the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, Park Slope Parents found that many of the parents who paid off the books figured that the law did not apply to them. This idea is ridiculous; bending the rules with regards to how one pays an employee blatantly ignores laws concerning workers’ rights.

Poor treatment of nannies is not a new problem; it is one that has been swept under the rug for years. There have been cases in which nannies have been forced to sleep on the floor or work over 60 hours a week without proper pay. Some have suffered attacks from parents, been fired without notice or kept like a slave in the house, unable to leave.

I do not understand how people can treat the person taking care of their children so poorly. The New York state law is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the final step – we must ensure that this law is properly enforced. Nannies must be treated with the respect they deserve and cannot be denied their rights as workers.