Wednesday Opinion: Nannies who sue

By Nanny X 2012 – if reposted please provide a full credit source back to this blog. 

Recently the media has been blitzed with ‘Nanny stories’. Whether it be the alleged actions of A celebrity employers with-holding back pay or overtime, or the most disturbing incident where a father Paul Rusconi, was wrongly accused of child abuse by a Nanny, Nannies as a social force are beginning to openly flex their muscles. 
“NEW YORK — A nanny who was fired by Robert De Niro has sued the actor for more than $40,000 in overtime pay. Alexis Barry says in court papers that she was never paid for more than 750 hours of overtime and never took 10 vacation days. She began working for De Niro and his wife, Grace Hightower, in August 2006, and says she was fired 10 months later _ after she said she was going to quit. The couple have an 11-year-old son. Barry says she is owed more than $40,000. She filed a lawsuit Friday in Manhattan’s state Supreme Court.” 1
Case settled

“Sharon Stone’s former nanny is going for bust with a damaging lawsuit accusing the “Casino” star of racial harassment, sweatshop conditions and wrongful termination. In her nine-page complaint, Erlinda Elemen claims Stone repeatedly subjected her to painful “slurs” related to her Filipino ethnicity and heritage during her five years as a live-in housekeeper and nanny.” 2

Case pending

“He (Paul Rusconi) was arrested with lewd acts upon a minor and possession of child pornography – and spent a night in prison before being released on a $220,000 bail. He was never charged with those crimes. The accuser, who was a nanny for the girls, is Mr Rusconi’s second cousin, and she filed the claim alongside her husband.” 3

Case discharged

The protection of social status afforded to A celebrities and politicians no longer exists. In fact ‘kiss and tell’ disclosures are on the rise with disgruntled Nannies venting publicly about famous dysfunctional families.
For many labor advocates transparency is a good thing. It signifies that domestic workers, as Nannies who do housework are often termed, are beginning to understand that they have power. In fact the practice of prosecution by Nannies is not only open to those with documentation. Even undocumented workers once believed to have no such options are now routinely busting employers who exploit them because State law maintains that employers are responsible for hiring illegal workers. The public shaming of abusive former employers plus the vast amounts offered in out of court settlements are more than compensation for being deported.
For employers however, the specter of being dragged into the courts on a false charge is horrifying. In Rusconi’s case it involved his twin daughters being taken into custody and temporarily placed with their ex-Nanny (a relative). In less traumatic ways parents may inadvertently find themselves served with legal suits due to an ignorance of new Domestic Workers Labor Laws. I recently discussed the story of how 44% Park Slope parents polled, failed to pay their Nannies over-time. 
The information currently available (some of this information is posted below in helpful links) is exhaustive but to break it down simply, if you employ someone in your home you must :
1) Define legally whether that person is an employee OR a freelance contractor. The difference will be that for the former you will pay their tax, and the latter, they will pay their own.
2) Have home insurance, what would happen if your employee had an accident in your home? Could they sue you? Could you afford to be sued?
3) Document everything: draft and sign an agreement clearly outlining what you expect your employee to do. Define how many hours your employee will work and at what rate of pay. Define over-time and the hourly rate of pay given. Define vacations and holiday pay. Define and provide adequate termination notice with severance pay. 
4) Track the time your employee works and document it.
5) Issue wage receipts. Keep a copy of what you pay your employee. Get the receipts signed.
6) Arrange a monthly sit-down with your employee. Check in with them and discuss expectations and work performances.
Without appropriate safeguards your home could become a ticking legal time bomb. It’s never too late to protect yourself against a lawsuit. After all the cost of not doing so could be devastating.