Saturday, July 24, 2010

Better luck next time

Up front disclosure - I am not dropping out of school. I will figure this out. Not asking for anything, just venting.

Yesterday when I was out with the boys, I stepped in a kit fox hole and felt a pop in my knee. It was the same leg I broke earlier this year so I babied it the rest of the day. I let the boys finish their games and then we headed back to the house for dinner. By the time we got back to the house, my knee was very swollen and the healed area of the recent break was throbbing. My employers noticed and asked what was wrong. I explained what had happened and how it was hurting and they wanted to take me to the ER immediately. Problem is, I don't have health insurance when school's out. During the school year, students have access to the clinic and have some coverage that can be used at the County hospital (they have a pre-determined contract for servicing uni students for cut rates). I explained this to Jack and Jill* (employers pseudonyms). Jack said he'd call a friend of his (a doctor) and see if he could get a gratis exam. His friend "Doctor" agreed and we went to his house. Doctor thought I had either rebroke the bone or injured the knee (by now it was locking up) and said I needed an xray. They called around and the cheapest xray was to be had at a walk-in clinic. Jack and I drove to the clinic. They wanted $400 for the exam and an xray. I told Jack I didn't have that kind of money and he said it was "okay". I went in, got my xray, and the doctor at the clinic said I really needed a CT scan, but that I shouldn't walk on the knee for a few days or until I'd been cleared by an orthopedist or the CT. He put me back on crutches.

Needless to say, there's tension now with my employers. I'm in pain and on crutches. Luckily, it's the weekend and I'm not officially "on duty". Jill* asked me if I could "do my job" tomorrow and I was honest with her - I'm just not sure if I can. If these boys were boys who liked to be indoors or hanging around the house, then I could do this from the couch. I told her that I was pretty sure we couldn't do our originally planned trip to the lake to fish. She was not happy at all. She said that my living there was with the understanding that I would work. I can understand her position - I wouldn't want to pay for a nanny who couldn't nanny, but she's not paying me cash, so what does this mean? Is she going to kick me out? Then, Jack came into the room and said that we would have to "discuss that $400". I told him I can pay him back part of it but it almost decimate my savings for school account (I think there's $500 in there now). He seemed like he understood that that was a scary idea for me and then he took the shopping list from the fridge and asked me what things on there (of mine) were non-necessities. NOTHING! I'm so upset because I really should've taken the advice some of you gave me to get a more detailed contract and to not undervalue what I've been doing for them. I was just so desperate to get a room for the summer that I neglected to consider how a situation like this would work out. Any advice now?

ETA: Up until now our arrangement has been working and I didn't expect them to have the reaction they are having. Am I being naive about this? Would you feel this way if your nanny were injured? What would you expect? Maybe I need another perspective?


  1. They are basically getting a nanny for free and they are going to freak out over $400?

    Thats insane.

    Might be time to call in a favor for somewhere else to live, Ruth.


  2. Umm, you got injured at work - don't they have some obligation to assist? At least here in Canada they would be responsible for your care, and for your time off work. They are your employers. I'm assuming that they are paying you "under the table" so to speak, so no, I don't think they have all that much to complain about.

    I'm very sorry they are being terrible.

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  4. Ruth,
    I was a nanny and let me tell you I learned my lesson about contracts the hard way. This was a long time ago, but I worked 30 hours a week, got room and board and a weekly salary. So for you to not be getting any cash in this exchange is kind of ridiculous.

    You were injured doing your job for them. I'm kind of appalled they are being this way. The extra cost of having you in their household would be negligible so I can't even believe they are bringing up the $400. I wish I could be of more help with advice. I will pray for you that this works out to the best.


  5. That is insane. Just to put it in perspective, I paid a sitter (not a live-in) $10/hr to watch my 2 boys last summer.

    As for what to do with the boys, I suggest crafts in house while you let your leg heal. Tell the parents that if they don't like it, they are welcome to find someone else willing to work for free.

  6. I know you think these people are nice and they probably are. However, I was a live-in nanny for 1 year in grad school 19 years ago. I made $250 a week plus ate whatever I wanted from the kitchen. I purchased my own toiletries, but that was it. I was taking classes during the day while the two children were in school. I dropped them off at school in the am and picked them up after school. I fed them dinner and babysat until the parents got home around 8pm. I helped get them ready for bed. One weekend per month I went with them to their country house and was responsible for about 75% of the childcare. The other weekends were my free time. It seems to me that whether or not the people you are working for realize it, they are taking advantage of you. You should be receiving financial compensation as well as room and board. I am sorry they have been so unsupportive since your accident, but if they had been paying you properly, you could have paid for your x-ray. I think they should let you stay and get better while spending time indoors with the kids. The kids will just have to sacrifice a little bit until you are better. If the parents give you a hard time or kick you out, I would ask your counselor for recommendations. Good Luck!!! I really hope this all works out for the best.


  7. Ummm, they kind of sound like assholes. There's "tension" because you were injured? Yeah, what a selfish thing for you to have done. How dare you injure yourself when they need free childcare!?

    I hate to say it, but it does sound like they're taking advantage of you. So my advice to you is, look out for yourself. Have a plan B. In fact, you should always have a "plan B." There's a song about this--it's called "Ace in the Hole" by George Strait. I find it inspiring (although I disagree with the "love" part!) in work/money situations.

  8. Ruth,
    I copied this from
    The following are some general weekly wage guidelines assuming a 45-50 hour work week and one or two children. All figures are in US dollars and representative of Year 2008 wages:


    18 - 20 years old, or less than 2 years verifiable child care experience - $325-$450 live-in; $9.00-12.00 hour live-out. (7/2009 Fed. Minimum wage = $7.25/hr)

    21 years or older, 2 or more years verifiable child care experience, no prior nanny experience (note that college education puts you to the higher end of the salary range) - $350-$550 live-in; $10-15 hour live-out.

    You are over 21, and certainly had lots of experience caring for children, but even if they are being picky...according to this chart you were entitled to $350ish a week as a live in nanny. Now even if you were trying to be a bargain nanny, $200 a week would not be out of the question. That times how many weeks you've worked is what you should have been earning.

    As for the $400...did you agree that this was a loan before you accepted the money? Or did you understand that it was a gift? Without any kind of agreement that this was money to be repaid I don't see how they can ask you to repay it.

  9. If the injury happened in the course of your duties watching the boys, they need to cover it. It's called workers compensation. They are not paying you a salary, therefore they aren't paying into disability or unemployment. Monday call legal aid.

  10. Where exactly were you when this happened? If it was on their property, isn't this the kind of thing you can recover from their homeowner's insurance*? That way they aren't out the cash and you don't have to choose between necessary medical care and food.

    *Because yeah, they could be held legally liable - which would probably be more the proverbial elephant in the room than the $400.

  11. Hi Ruth,
    I'm very sorry to hear about that. And the way they are acting is horrible. While I agree with a lot of what was said here re: legal liability, I would encourage you to use that as your last resort.

    Why? It's expensive. It burns bridges. It's going to make it very hard for you to find a similar job in the future. Even though you may be right and may find a lawyer willing to pro bono the case, litigation is a lengthy process, and I'm sure you'd need something to provide income during that time. Plus, any future employer who finds out about this is going to be skeptical, especially if it's another private family.

    I would try to work this out with them without legal action. Be firm, don't let them walk over you, but be polite and try not to get them on the defensive. Explain to Jack that you stated up-front that you did not have the money for the x-ray. Tell him that without his verbal offer, you would not have gotten it. Thank him, but tell him that had you known you were going to be forced to reimburse him, you would have forgone the procedure. Perhaps bring up resources that have been mentioned here regarding employers' responsibility for injuries on the job, and say that because of this, you were under the impression that it would be covered. It's not a direct threat, but it is firm and has teeth. While it wont put them on the defensive, it will make them realize you mean business.

    I would suggest doing research, finding out EXACTLY where you stand legally (perhaps consult an attorney with regards to that), and then sit Jack and Jill down for a talk. Like my dad used to say, "You'll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you'll catch the most flies with honey on a good flytrap." Be polite, be sweet, be open, but be firm and prepared.

    Best of luck!

  12. Please post back about how your leg is doing. I'm praying for it & you. You are very brave!


  13. You got injured on the JOB and could sue them (especially if they aren't pay unemployment/disability on you, and are paying you under the table). They are obligated to at least give you time off to heal, if not cover your medical costs. What are the terms of your employment? How are they paying you? I have been a nanny for the last couple of years. I was injured while nannying and they paid 75% of my insurance and paid my co-pay when I had to go to the ER b/c of an at work injury. Domestic workers ARE NOT SERVANTS--DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE TREATED LIKE A SLAVE! Stand up for your rights.

  14. husband is repeating 'workmen's compensation' over again. If they aren't paying in and you have to file it, they could get in a lot of trouble. They are legally required to pay in.

  15. Hi Ruth,

    My name is Jasmine and I am currently a nanny/babysitter in northern california. I work with an agency and I have to tell you that the families I have met through the agency truly are the best! I don't know how you find your family, but in my experience, the families I met on my own were not the ones that treated me the best. I learned the lesson your learnng right now the hard way and I can't stress enough the importance of getting something written down so you know exactly what the family expects. Many families that employ nannies live in/full time do take on the responsibility of health care coverage, because it's like, you know their duty! I mean you ARE employed by them and your employed should cover you, especially considering your not married or have insurance through parents. However, I don't know the financial status of the family you are employed by. Typically, these families that take in full time/live in nannies are very well off and are able to cover your health care costs.

    I know how awkward you must feel about this situation and how you so don't want to rock the boat with the family by asking them to cover the costs of your injury. My advice to you would be just to go to the local county hospital ER and get your leg taken care of. They won't charge you anything upfront and will send you a bill in the mail later. When they send you the bill, there will be a number you can call to talk to someone if you can't pay it. They will negotiate down the price with you. My boyfriend doesn't have insurance and we took him to our county hospital. He had to get a CT scan and other stuff and his bill was over 3,000 dollars. He called the number and the brought his bill down to $50 (he was unemployed at the time too). And they even gave him a number to an urgent care clinic where he could go instead of the ER and its just a five dollar co-pay for him.

    May I ask what exactly the arrangement is with Jack and Jill? Are they letting you live there for free as long as you watch their boys full time? This is very unconventional. They should be paying you and giving you room and board and necessities. And keep in mind nannies are payed well above minimum wage. In California, its $8 an hour but the market rate for a nanny without much experience is 13. Hope this helps.

  16. Our arrangement, which had been working very well (until now, is:
    I get a free, furnished room (bed, dresser, cable tv, phone, bathroom). I get all meals, even on my off days, as made by their cook. I can also put, on the list, any personal things I need and they will be bought. I get the use of a car with gas and insurance paid by Jack and Jill. Though, I did notice that it's paid through Jack's company (if that makes a difference).

    In exchange, I have to:
    Work from 7:30 to about 6:30pm every weeknight. On weekends, I can choose to accompany the family on trips/vacations in exchange for watching the boys after the parents go out for the night.

    They really haven't abused my being there or done anything that makes me even remotely question their morals or ethics until now. Someone asked where I hurt myself? It wasn't here at the house. I was at the baseball fields for the boys' practices and I had just went to chase down one of their friends' kids when I stepped in the hole. Jack was there, having come from work, but I had driven the boys to the practice and I drove them home because Jack was talking business with that other parent I was referring to.

  17. So it happened while you were working. They are your employers. Doesn't have to be at the house, at the store or at the beach. You were doing your job and in the course of that you got hurt. If they aren't paying your taxes, it's illegal in CA. Get your leg taken care of.

  18. Being obviously well off (considering they employ a nanny AND a cook), and they are already grossly underpaying you, AND considering the words "Don't worry" don't mean "We'll talk about you paying a bill you just told me you can't afford later", I don't think you owe them a dime. I think they owe you the full price of the bill, the understanding that you and the children need to lay low at the house for a week or more, and STILL a salary outside of "free room and board". You really are getting taken advantage of, you are not seeing yourself and the services you are providing for what they really are worth. I'm sorry you're in this situation, and I hope you and your employers come to a FAIR solution soon..

  19. Yeah, you hurt yourself on the job, treatment is supposed to be on their dime. OF COURSE you have no health insurance; they're not paying you any money, they're not providing it for you, and you're not currently in school -- where did they think you'd be getting health insurance from, the tooth fairy?

    How long until school starts up again in the fall? I'm just wondering how much longer you need to depend on these people.

  20. And seriously, 11-hour days, five days a week, for room and board? And they're bitching about a $400 doctor bill?

    I know you like these people, but they are either willfully exploiting you or they have NO IDEA how good they have it and need to get a clue.

  21. They are getting an incredible deal from you. Keep that in mind. Wealthy people (I know from many years of working for them) can have quite a sense of entitlement about their own convenience. It is terrible, but not completely surprising to me that Jill is only thinking of your injury in terms of how it will inconvenience *her.* It is also terrible-but-not-surprising that they are making a big deal over that x-ray bill. First of all, everyone is right that you were injured on the job which makes it likely their responsibility anyway. And they have to know that you have no money (they are not PAYING YOU ANY). So a $400 medical bill, which is nothing to the kind of people who have household servants, might as well be ten thousand to you. But wealthy people can be cheap ba$tards, quite frankly. This is not to say that they are bad or not nice people in general, but when push comes to shove you find out where people's priorities are.

    I really, really feel for where you're at right now. I was in a live-in for the summer babysitting situation with a family I had a long babysitting relationship with, and I went above and beyond to please them (due to my upbringing) and I now know that they took a advantage of me, probably mostly unintentionally. There was nothing as serious as an injury, but there were some awkward situations over money. At the time I didn't have the skills to stand up for myself more, and I wouldn't have been able to stand having them mad at me, so I always took the short end of any disagreement.

    Here's what you have to know (and let me tell you, at least you have this blog as a source of information and second opinions!) You are not completely without leverage here, although they must know you are in a scary position of having no place to go if they kick you out.
    1- They are taking a risk here having you work off the books. They don't really want to start scorching the earth.
    2- If you leave, they have to figure out what to do with their kids for the rest of the summer, and they are not going to want to deal that.
    3- When you talk to them, here is your magic word: "Accomodations" As in, "I will need some accommodations in the work routine while I heal." I don't know exactly how the ADA applies in domestic situations, but if Jack is a businessman he knows that word well.

    I'm sorry this has happened. Live-in can be an incredibly fraught situation when there is a huge power imbalance and no good boundaries set out in advance. (Not criticizing - we all live and learn!)

  22. As someone who has been a professional nanny for years, both live-in and otherwise, I wholeheartedly second the opinions given here. You are being grossly underpaid and taken advantage of. You deserve more compensation than you are receiving. Your current compensation would be generous if you were only working 15 hours a week or so, but you are not. You need to go to them, present the information you've been given here, and ask for a salary. These people are definitely taking advantage of your good nature and lack of experience in the working world. (I don't say that to be mean, sweetie--because a few years ago, I WAS you.)

    Ruth, I came from the fundamentalist movement too. We weren't quite Gothardites, but very nearly, and a lot of people in our church were Gothardites. I know your mentality right now. We have been raised to believe that we should bend over backwards to accommodate others, that everyone else's needs (perceived or real) come before our own, and that we shouldn't speak up for our own rights and needs. It's wrong, and just one more way that movement has damaged young women.

    Please. Listen to everyone here.

  23. Also, that whole attempting to cross things off your store list thing is deeply weird. Smacks of trying to make you feel guilty and punish you. Why??? For causing them in convenience? To try to make you uncomfortable enough to leave? Very weird.

  24. Honey, you are getting screwed by these people. They are providing for you, sure, but they are also hamstringing you from being able to earn a nickel anywhere else. They are not being remotely fair in your compensation and it is unacceptable that you aren't being paid. And now, if you were to negotiate any salary from them, it sounds like a human trafficking horror story that they might try to weasel it into "we'll put your "pay" toward your bills, your room and board, etc.

  25. They are asking if you can pay back the $400 and you said you could pay some - NO. do not do this. You owe no money. In fact, they owe you because the compensation they offer is crap.

    They sound intimidating and that sucks.

    Go to your local county hospital if need be. The bill can be reduced.

    Once mobile, apply to every waitress/barrista job and go on craigslist and find a room for rent close to school.

    In the meantime, watch the boys at home, but maintain boundaries with Jack and Jill. I know this must suck.

    I don't know where you live, but there are womens shelters in every urban area.

    You can figure this out; you're smart.


  26. Just go to the non-profit ER in your area. They will take care of everything, including outpatient care if need be, and when the bill comes will work with you to either pay a really small amount or nothing.
    You can't get blood out of a turnip.

    You might want to double check your schools clinic though. I know mine was open during the summer because it served underprivileged families and summer students too. Yours might be too.

    And, I wholeheartedly agree that you are being grossly taken advantage of, and they are responsible for that bill. Especially if they aren't paying you anything, but have a personal chef. It would be one thing if they paid you a few hundred a week, but nothing is ridiculous.

  27. i think you should ask a lawyer how to sort this all out

  28. Ruth, I'm sorry, I didn't understand what the circumstances were.

    While I realize that what they are doing seems kind, it's actually, well, pretty much illegal. They aren't paying you, they aren't insuring you, they aren't performing any of their obligations as employers, nor are they paying you, but they are quite willing to treat you as an employee.

    This is not legal. And more than that, it's just awful. Nice people don't do this.

    Truthfully, I think the answer is to get on the phone with your university residence or a friend, figure out how to move out, pack up and leave. It's going to hurt the boys, and that sucks, but at this stage you need to protect you.

    Then when you are out, you can contact them, and tell them you will be forwarding your medical bills for them for payment. If they won't pay them, you can tell them that your state labour board will get copies of them instead.

    I'm serious Ruth, nice people don't do this.

  29. I guess this has been said enough, but I will say it again. You are getting screwed. At first, I didn't think you were getting ripped off that badly because you needed room and board. But I did the math.

    Let's say it costs $600 a month to share an apartment/rent a very small studio. I don't know how much ultilities are, but with many places they are included. Food=$200 per month. You also get toiletries/personal items=$100. And use of the car during your free time which I value at $40 a month. So the value of what they are giving you is $940 per month. If you are working 11 hours per day at minimum wage, that's $1595 per month, less with taxes. (lets also keep in mind that with companies bound by labor laws, anything over eight hours per day overtime, and employees are paid their hourly wage times 1.5) So $1595 minus $940 is $655. That's how much they owe you, at least, per month.

    My advice is to ask for pay, and save it for a deposit on your own apartment. This way, you won't have to move every summer, or worry about living with your employer.

  30. This situation really sucks. It sounds like everyone is giving great advice though. But, you're working 55 hours a week for nearly almost free. And they have a personal chef! The sad truth is people will not respect you more or be kinder to you because you are willing to work for almost nothing. The opposite is true, they treat you like you're worth exactly what they're paying you. Don't under value the service you provide these people. You are not indebted to them. I second what people say about applying for any and every part time job and getting a cheap room. The room might suck, your room mates might be crazy, but you won't be under anyone's yoke.

  31. Ruth, it'S not even legal to employ somebody without paying them ! Do they let the cook eat the food and have a budget on the grocery list too ?

    This looks like a very well off family who just don't want to pay anything and are taking advantage of your lack of knowledge in this.

    You said you did not have the money, he wanted to pay, you don't owe him a thing. Does he want his boss to know the condition of employement he subjected to you ? Really ?

    Don't hesitate to fight back, really. It's not because the person holding the stick smiles that it's a good person or that you should just nod along the process.

    Good luck honey.

  32. PS : why would you consider room as paying part of the pay... they would not rent it if you weren't there... At most, say it's like 100$/month for the utilities... Really don't integrate it in the "salary" you're not paid with.

    Plus : you can't pay people with store credit. Not anymore !

  33. Ruth,

    I'm so very sorry that you've hurt your leg/knee/foot again. I know you are probably very scared right now, as well. I think you need to tell Jack/Jill that when you called the county hospital to find out about indigent care, they wanted to know why you were hurt on the job without worker's comp. Tell Jack/Jill that you'll have to write down what happened and you're uncomfortable with the idea that there's now a paper trail to Jack and Jill.

    If these people are smart, they will take you to one of their doctor friends, pay the bill and shut up.

    What they are doing is wrong on many levels. And the taxpayers of CA don't seem to be in the mood to foot the bill for rich people who are too cheap to take care of the employee they aren't even paying.

    I'd also give Jill an indication of how long you'll be limited. If she can't understand, ask her what she'd have you do when you were hurt on the job, doing the job.

    Don't let fear rule you. How long before school starts?

  34. Ruth, please google YourState Labor Laws. You were injured on the job, your employer is responsible for the medical bills related to that injury. Also, google the Family Medical Leave not only applies to adoptions or births, but also to employees who need unpaid time off due to illness/injury. "Jack and Jill" are trying to screw you over. They are banking on you not knowing your rights. Don't let them get by with it. You may also want to contact a local attorney who specizlizes in labor law. Most attorneys will give you one free consultation. Check out your local Yellow Pages.

  35. Unfortunately, Ruth is not legally employed. The family can claim they are in a barter situation and can legally end their agreement at their will. Morally they look very bad, but legally they can do whatever they want. They have no legal obligation to pay for anything. Morally they should.

    Don't pay back the $400. They owe you that much. They can not demand payment without a loan contract.


  36. can I reiterate again that these people are taking advantage of you? Having a furnished room is pretty typical. They can afford a cook and having meals on the job is also typical, and expected. Since you don't have a car, I can see that taking a little away from wages, but the fact that they don't pay you at all is, in my eyes akin to slavery! Those hours are also really long. I've been a nanny for around 2.5 years now and it makes me really angry to see you being treated this way. This family obviously has money, but chose to hire you off of the books so that they legally couldn't be held responsible for things like this. I agree-- don't pay them back--hell don't even consider it.

  37. MaryK, that is untrue, they are legally obligated to pay her minimum wage and to pay employment taxes on that, including workers comp. Ruth, you are covered by workers comp regardless of whether they have paid in. I would contact workers comp tomorrow and see how it will work. They will have to pay and I presume will be penalized. Not to mention penalized for not paying social security and other employment taxes. Just because something is bartered does not mean taxes aren't owed on it. And it is illegal to pay less than minimum wage, they can get into trouble for that as well. I know I've posted a couple of times that they were taking advantage of you by not paying you, so I won't repeat myself, but now it's gone much further. Unfortunately, you are not covered by the family and medical leave act as there is a minimum requirement of being on the job for 1 year. Plus a minimum company size. So they can let you go, however, they will put themselves at extreme legal liability if they do so since you will have nothing to lose by turning them into the appropriate government agency. Here's a link: You are also entitled to overtime pay for the 15 hours a week that you are working over 40 hours. If they try to let you go, I would make it clear that they will be reported.

    Okay, I did a little research, I don't know what state you're in. It's possible you are not covered by worker's comp, but it all has to do with the laws of your state. I would research it yourself, should be easy on google, and then if you think you're covered (domestic employees in private homes might not be covered), or even if you think you're not (since you weren't in their home at the time) call workers comp tomorrow. If you're not covered, they are still legally liable for your bills and you could sue them. They should realize all of this. I would stand up to "Jack" when he erases things off the list, tell him that if he'd like to renegotiate your employment agreement that you'd be happy to take a salary and purchase your own items.

    Bottom line, get out of there as soon as you can. School probably starts in a month or so. Unfortunately, you already signed up for this bum deal and it will be hard to find somewhere to go if it doesn't work out. So I'd try to ride it out, get the medical care and deal with the legalities of who pays later since the bills won't come until you're back at school, and then consider this all a lesson learned. Next summer negotiate a salary! Or, could you look into some sort of Au Pair arrangement? They do pay you, not a ton, but a lot more than you're being paid now.

  38. It looks like you are in California. Here is what I found: WHICH EMPLOYERS MUST HAVE WORKERS' COMPENSATION INSURANCE?
    As said on California's Workers' Compensation Website: "California law requires employers to have workers' compensation insurance if they have even one employee."
    Failing to have workers' compensation coverage for an employee is a criminal offense. Section 3700.5 of the California Labor Code makes it a misdemeanor punishable by either a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year, or both. Additionally, the state issues penalties of up to $100,000 against illegally uninsured employers. You would be correct in concluding that California law takes very serious an employer's failure to have workers' comp coverage for employees.

    They could be in real legal trouble if you would turn them in. There is a fund in Ca that pays medical bills for employees of employers who illegally did not pay for worker's comp insurance. It looks like it's required for even one employee. So you should be find on the medical bills. They are also required to pay you for time off of work. So her little upsettedness about you not being able to do the same job is uncalled for. She should be happy that you're willing to do any job at all. If your doctor restricts you, she could end up having to hire someone else to do it while "paying" (ie, not paying) you as well.

  39. Ruth wrote:

    Our arrangement, which had been working very well (until now, is:
    I get a free, furnished room (bed, dresser, cable tv, phone, bathroom). I get all meals, even on my off days, as made by their cook. I can also put, on the list, any personal things I need and they will be bought. I get the use of a car with gas and insurance paid by Jack and Jill. Though, I did notice that it's paid through Jack's company (if that makes a difference).

    In exchange, I have to:
    Work from 7:30 to about 6:30pm every weeknight. On weekends, I can choose to accompany the family on trips/vacations in exchange for watching the boys after the parents go out for the night.

    This arrangement is so many kinds of illegal I can't even wrap my mind around it. I'm afraid that, notwitstanding all their seeming kindness, this family is totally taking advantage of you.

    I had thought there was something shady about the arrangement from the little you posted about it earlier, but I had no idea how unfair it really is. While Jack and Jill may seem nice to you, I suspect that's only because you've been taken advantage of so much all your life that you don't quite realize what basic rights you have.

    I very much disagree with the idea that you shouldn't rock the boat. Not only is the current situation intolerable, but so is the overall arrangement. There is no reason for you not to be paid for working more than full-time (apart from room and board); and there is no reason for you not to have basic benefits like workman's comp that all employees are entitled to.

    I truly think the best way forward at this point is getting some kind of formal legal help. I'm not sure what form that should take. It could be something as minor as talking to the legal office at your university - I am sure they have one - or perhaps even a law school clinic, should your university have a law school. Or you could actually get legal representation, very likely for free, from Legal Aid clinics, or even from private attorneys pro bono.

    I know a lot of public-spirited attorneys in California - in fact, my husband is one, though he doesn't specialize in labor law - and I am fairly certain we could direct you to the free legal help you need, at least in this state. You can PM me on freejinger (rikkitikkitavi) or email me at

    I really think this is about way more than the $400 medical payment, groceries, room and board while you are injured. You are truly being exploited, and I am incensed on your behalf.

  40. Interesting that the families who seem to be able to afford the best nannies for their kids and employ people in a "proper" manner, in my experience, seem to "cheap-out" the most. My husband and I are by no means wealthy (at least by California standards), and we have chosen to do everything by the book with our nanny, who we got from an agency -- we pay her taxes, unemployment insurance, workers comp, etc. She never works one hour past what we've arranged without prior agreement and without proper compensation.

    One of my child's playmates' father is a Hall-of-Fame sports star, and their nanny is an illegal immigrant who they basically keep as an indentured servant. A nanny acquaintance of mine went on an interview to nanny for a basketball star, and they wanted to pay her $10/hr for multiple kids instead of the $18 she had been getting for a single child with another family for years. Seriously, what's up with these people?

  41. I think this is the problem.. Ruth agreed to this deal. Period. It sucks, and is illegal, but she agreed to it nonetheless. She didn't think it through and is in a bad situation that she just needs to finish and get out of there.

    I have never heard of a university that did not keep at least one dorm open in the summer for students working or taking classes on campus. Also, most colleges have work available in the summer for students that would actually pay her, or at least pay room and board, which would have been better than the situation she is in right now. There are usually cleaning positions, occasionally resident advisors for the open dorm(s), office work, etc. Maybe this college is one in a million that offers nothing and no dorms are kept open at all. I don't know.

    I really, really don't mean to sound heartless, but I don't think there is much legally that anyone is going to do, especially since they have paid the bill.

    The words that can happen is that they can take you to small claims court for the money and they will probably lose based on the facts.

    Either get through the next 2 weeks, or find somewhere to stay. I don't see any other option at this point. Not sure what you are hoping to get from them since you are the one who agreed to take on this arrangement?

    And as far as getting hurt on work hours, you aren't legally an employee. All they have to say is that you are living with them for the summer and helping out with the kids. Since you have nothing legal, it is hard to dispute that. You aren't earning a salary, and are basically just crashing in their house (which I know isn't true but they will paint it that way).

  42. I do think that she's legally an employee, not being paid does not make one not an employee. She would probably be eligible for workers comp from what I read. As far as suing for minimum wage, that would be a lot harder so I wouldn't probably pursue that since she DID agree to the arrangement (and I did try to convince Ruth not to agree to work without pay, when I had an Au Pair she got pocket money, I've never heard of not paying anything.)

    And they haven't "paid the bill." They paid the initial cost, but now she needs an MRI, and who knows what else. She needs to know that she has coverage.

    Ruth, next summer don't go without health insurance. There are short-term policies you can buy that would be less than $100 per month. Your employers could have paid for that, make sure to negotiate that if you every try to nanny again. Because there are plenty of health problems that could occur that would not be job related and you'd have no options.

  43. I don't have any good advice, I just want to take you home with me and look after you! I would be happy for you to live with me for the summer in exchange for amusing my (easily amused) 4 year old for 2 hrs a day while the baby naps!


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