Au pairs the world over who have worked in the U.S. will be celebrating today after the news that they have been awarded a whopping $65 million settlement with recruitment companies based in America.
Being an au pair is plenty of hard work, looking after someone else’s children, often more than one, and taking care of them day in and day out while the parents work. The job often entails feeding the children and helping them with things like homework if the child is old enough, or changing diapers if they aren’t, and transport to and from school. It is also, fairly often, a thankless job, and for those who have worked in the U.S., apparently also a horribly underpaid one.
International au pairs who have been coming to the U.S. to work for the past nine years and suffering plenty of abuses at the hands of their employers are finally getting their own back. As reported by TIME Magazine, a dozen former au pairs brought a lawsuit against recruitment companies that bring au pairs to the country, arguing that among those abuses suffered was pay way below the minimum wage and duties well outside of their job descriptions.
On Wednesday, a proposed settlement was filed in a Denver federal court, with the almost 100,000 former au pairs represented in the case being offered $65 million among them as compensation.
As part of the lawsuit, they claimed that “companies authorized to bring au pairs to the United States colluded to keep their wages low, ignoring overtime and state minimum wage laws and treating the federal minimum wage for au pairs as a maximum amount they can earn.”
A pretty large payday in the works for thousands of au pairs who said they were underpaid while caring for U.S. families https://t.co/4MuFmVWhGF
— Sara Randazzo (@sara_randazzo) January 9, 2019
“This settlement, the hard-fought victory of our clients who fought for years on behalf of about 100,000 fellow au pairs, will be perhaps the largest settlement ever on behalf of minimum wage workers and will finally give au pairs the opportunity to seek higher wages and better working conditions,” said David Seligman, director of Denver-based Towards Justice, which filed the lawsuit in 2014.
Now comes a rather lengthy task for the lawyers involved in the case: Tracking down every single au pair who came from foreign countries to the United States between January 1, 2009, and October 28, 2018, on J-1 visas, and to determine whether they were underpaid while working.
The defense of the recruitment companies was that they were “just following regulations from the State Department.” According to TIME, the last time the pay for au pairs was adjusted was in 2009, and they shocking said that it was appropriate to pay au pairs $195.75 for a 45-hour work week.
Au pairs are typically live-in childminders, and as such the State Department lowered the minimum wage for au pairs from the federal minimum of $7.25 to $4.25. Recruitment companies also argued that forcing families to pay au pairs the minimum wage would make them unaffordable.