Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nanny State Targets Nannies

With Record Unemployment In California, Legislature Erects Further Obstacles For Job Seekers

An opinion piece by state senator Doug LaMalfa in The Union describes a bill that has already passed the state assembly and is moving toward Governor Brown's desk. Assemblymen Ammiano and Perez introduced bill AB 889 that would require that nannies, housekeepers, babysitters (age 18 or over) and other "domestic employees" be subject to employment regulations similar to - and often beyond - those of more traditional employment and that the people who hire them (e.g. parents and homeowners) be regulated like more traditional employers and subject to those requirements. That will include providing workers' compensation, bi-hourly breaks (which, in the case of babysitters, may require hiring two "employees" to ensure adequate supervision of children); keeping detailed wage rates, time cards, and payment records and providing those records to any "current or former employee, upon reasonable request to the employer"; and so on. Basically, it appears as though paying the neighbor's college kid to babysit or paying someone known and trusted from church to come by and help with housework will now require compliance will the full panoply of California employment laws and will put into legal jeopardy any "employer" who doesn't properly do so.

Why does the legislature want to make it so much harder for people to find work as nannies, housekeepers, and babysitters? Not a single Republican voted for this bill. So, why do Democrats hate the traditionally younger, poorer, lower-skilled people that seek to support themselves or supplement their incomes with work in these fields? I know plenty of people who hire babysitters for a 6 hour stint once or twice a month who won't be able to do so now. Same deal for people who pay someone (often a friend known from the PTA or church or another such affiliation) to come in and help catch up with housekeeping for a few hours on a weekly or monthly basis. Will they still want to do that when it requires compliance with laws most people aren't aware of and when it exposes them legally if they have failed to comply? This bill would seem to encourage the use of dedicated service agencies instead of casual arrangements for these services. The casual arrangements are often preferable because they are easier to arrange with people who are known personally and are trusted in private homes and around children. Use of service agencies will inevitably drive up costs, discourage employment, and, in all likelihood, lead to tragedies involving unattended children as people skimp on babysitters, knowing they could be sued for failing to provide a detailed pay stub or adequate break time.

Outside of the state capitol, is there any reasonable person who really thinks that California employment is under-regulated? Is it really time to turn the screws on parents and homeowners and the people they casually employ? Frankly, the only upside I can see to this legislation is that it might expose many more people to the real costs of living in a world where legislators control every aspect of life. If the vast majority of people think of themselves as "employers" beset by compliance and reporting requirements, then some of the classist thinking that allows this sort of law (and the election of people who would propose it) will get the serious criticism it deserves. When enough people decide that professed good intentions are irrelevant to whether a law should be passed, then people like assemblyman Ammiano et alia will have to find honest work.

1 comment:

Curmudgeon said...

To his credit, Jerry Brown actually did veto this bill. However, he did pass two others, less prima facie absurd but no less economically devastating: