Posts tagged with "Federal appeals court"

Child care costs have skyrocketed 150% for Massachusetts families who hire au pairs

February 5, 2020

Some families in Massachusetts just saw their child care costs shoot up by 150% almost overnight, CNN reports.

The reason? Two months ago, on December 2, a Bay State federal appeals court affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Cultural Care Au Pair. With that decision, the court confirmed that au pair workers qualify as “domestic workers”—and, therefore, are protected by the Massachusetts minimum wage, overtime, and Domestic Worker Bill of Rights (DWBOR) laws 

The au pair program, designed as a federal cultural exchange program under the U.S. State Department, brings au pairs to the United States on temporary J-1 exchange visas. Under the traditional program, families nationwide paid their au pairs a stipend—a minimum of $195.75 a week for up to 45 hours of child care work.

However, CNN reports, as of January 2020, parents in Massachusetts now must pay the state’s minimum wage of $12.75 an hour, or the stipend—whichever is more—raising the weekly wage to more than $500 for 45 hours.

In addition, under Massachusetts law, families that hire au pairs now must give domestic workers who labor 16 or more hours a week a written agreement that includes information about:

  • Their regular and overtime rate of pay;
  • Raises or increases in pay for added duties or skills;
  • Work schedule and job duties;
  • Rest periods, sick leave, holidays, vacation, and personal days’
  • Any other benefits;
  • Charges or pay deductions;
  • Eligibility for workers’ compensation;
  • The process for raising and resolving concerns;
  • Notice of termination by the worker or employer;
  • Why and when the employer will enter the worker’s living space (for live-in workers); and
  • What would constitute “cause” for termination (for live-in workers).

In addition, employers of domestic workers must keep payroll records and provide paystubs.  Records should be kept for three years. Specifically, domestic workers who work 16 or more hours per week must receive a timesheet at least every two weeks that shows the number of hours worked each day. The timesheet should be signed or acknowledged by both the worker and employer.

A worker who disagrees with the number of hours listed has the right to make a note on the timesheet of the hours the worker believes that he or she worked.  Signing a timesheet does not mean that the worker cannot later claim any additional wages owed.  Failure to sign a timesheet does not allow an employer to delay or withhold pay.

According to CNN, all of this sounds like good news to Abril Nieves, who arrived from Mexico in 2014 to be an au pair for a family in Boston. While many au pairs have a good experience, she felt as if her host family had taken advantage of her.

“What [the agency] sold me was a cultural exchange,” she told the cable news network. “They said you’ll work a couple hours, learn English, travel.”

Instead she found herself working more than 45 hours a week—caring for four children, all under the age of two—and she didn’t feel like she was being fairly compensated for the work she was providing.

“The program is flawed,” said Nieves. “We don’t have sick days or benefits.”

However, although the ruling was designed to protect people like Nieves, many say that it doesn’t fairly account for the value of free food, housing, and additional financial support provided by the host family throughout their year together. Critics of the ruling worry that the dramatic shift in cost will push families away from the program altogether, blocking the opportunity for young people who are interested in visiting the US.

“The increase in financial obligations for families is a significant challenge,” Natalie Jordan, SVP of Cultural Care Au Pair, told CNN.

Research contact: @CNN

Left-leaning big tech is likely target of White House Social Media Summit

July 12, 2019

Ears must have been “ringing” at Facebook, Google, Instagram, and Twitter on July 11—since the big tech companies, likely, dominated the discourse at the Social Media Summit at the White House scheduled for that date.

While the big four were not invited to the confab, The Wall Street Journal reported that the event would offer a platform for supporters of the Trump administration, who claim they face censorship from the left-tilting social media companies—as well as a preview of a likely theme in the president’s re-election campaign.

Attendees include the Claremont Institute think tank; the right-wing media company PragerU; and the Media Research Center, a nonprofit “media watchdog” committed to “neutralizing left wing bias.” Also expected to attend are more familiar Washington conservatives, including the Heritage Foundation, the news outlet said.

The companies declined to comment on the event, but have said in the past that they seek to police harmful or fake content without regard to politics.

“It’s all about 2020,” Paul Gallant, managing director of Cowen Washington Research Group for Technology, Media & Telecom,  told the Journal. He sees it as a stage for the president to tell “the base that the media and Internet companies are against us” as well as “pressuring Facebook, Twitter, and Google to tilt content in Trump’s direction.”

The event grew out of complaints the White House has received about bias online, a spokesman said.

“Earlier this year the White House launched a tool to allow Americans, regardless of their political views, to share how they have been affected by bias online,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere. “After receiving thousands of responses, the President wants to engage directly with these digital leaders in a discussion on the power of social media.”

In May, the White House briefly opened an official website for the public to share information about “action against your account” by social-media platforms. Last month it described Thursday’s event as “a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

Charlie Kirk, who leads the student group Turning Point USA, said in an interview with the financial news outlet that alleged bias by social-media companies resonates with the president’s supporters, calling it “one of the top, if not the top issue with people [who] I interact with on social media.”

Bill Mitchell, chief executive of YourVoice  made his first official White House visit at the event. Like others invitees, he told the Journal that he has seen anecdotal evidence that his pro-Trump videos and tweets should be reaching a larger audience. “We just want a level playing field so that everybody can have free speech,” he said.

But despite their enthusiasm for the cause,  neither the attendees nor the president will be able to effectively muzzle the big tech companies, experts think.

Trump “can’t do much” to change the way social-media platforms operate, said Sam McGowan, an analyst at Beacon Policy Advisers, a research firm based in Washington, D.C. “What he can do is hold these sorts of summits. …That in itself is a way to rally Trump’s base.”

The limited ability of President Trump to change the way social-media works was reinforced Monday when a federal appeals court ruled that his practice of blocking some users on Twitter violates the free-speech protections of the First Amendment.

Short of tangible action, calls to rein in tech firms could be a political winner on the campaign trail. In a March Wall Street Journal/NBC survey of 1,000 American adults, 54% said they weren’t satisfied with federal government regulation and oversight of social-media companies, compared with 36% who were satisfied and 10% who weren’t sure.

Research contact: ryan.tracy@wsj.com