August 31 2011

California Crazy

Anna Rittgers

Just when you think the California legislature couldn't get any more ridiculous, State Senator Doug LaMalfa (R) alerts us to a bill currently before the California Senate.

Assembly Bill 899 would require that parents provide domestic employees (which include housekeepers, nannies, and caregivers) certain benefits:

Under AB 889, household "employers" (aka "parents") who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers' compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

Failure to abide by any of these provisions may result in a legal cause of action against the employer including cumulative penalties, attorneys' fees, legal costs and expenses associated with hiring expert witnesses, an unprecedented measure of legal recourse provided no other class of workers - from agricultural laborers to garment manufacturers.

Not only do you have to find a babysitter for Friday night (which is a challenge in its own right), you also need to hire a substitute caregiver to give your primary babysitter a break every two hours?

Suddenly, date night doesn't seem like such a great idea. 

If this bill becomes law in California (it has already passed the State Assembly), babysitters 18 and over will have a harder time finding work.  Those high school seniors turning 18 in August through December will be hardest hit, while sophomores and juniors will see a boom in business.  And it will be even more difficult for parents to enjoy a night out without the kids.

Furthermore, every babysitter I have ever hired charges significantly more than minimum wage.  In the DC Metro area, the demand for responsible caregivers is quite high, and parents are more than happy to pay higher prices for quality care.  

I predict that the minimum wage (or something close to it) will become the prevailing wage for babysitters 18 and over in California.  After all, parents willing to jump through the state's hoops just to hire an older sitter will have to incur additional costs (beyond the cost of the sitter's actual labor) in order to comply with the law, not to mention the time and energy on recordkeeping and the risk of lawsuit. 

The sitter gets less work, and makes less money, all due to a law that will supposedly "protect" them.  Sen. LaMalfa identifies yet another consequence of the bill:

Unfortunately, the unreasonable costs and risks contained in this bill will discourage folks from hiring housekeepers, nannies and babysitters and increase the use of institutionalized care rather than allowing children, the sick or elderly to be cared for in their homes. I can't help but wonder if that is the goal of AB 889 - a terrible bill that needs to be stopped.

(hat tip: Hot Air)

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