Posts tagged with "State Department"

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

Rudy to the rescue? Giuliani’s current Ukraine jaunt freaks out Trump’s team—and he doesn’t care

December 9, 2019

Forget Carmen Sandiego. Where in the world is Rudy Giuliani?  The president’s personal attorney’s decision to travel to multiple European countries last week—during the height of an impeachment probe involving his client—was so out of left field that senior administration officials and national security brass began tracking his movements in an effort to get a read on his objectives abroad, The Daily Beast reports.

Indeed, officials in the West Wing and numerous Trump associates learned about Giuliani’s latest foreign escapade, which included a stop in Ukraine, by reading the news, the news outlet said.

Many of them expressed exasperation at the thought of Giuliani—himself reportedly in the crosshairs of federal investigators—continuing to cause headaches for the White House. Others feared he would cause tangible damage to U.S. foreign policy.

 “I do not see why [any] lawyer would see this as serving the best interests of their client,” a senior White House official told The Daily Beast. “Especially now.”

Senior U.S. officials in the State Department and on the national security team were concerned that Giuliani was speaking with politicians in both Budapest and Kiev who have interests in domestic American politics.

According to five Daily Beast sources with knowledge of the situation, there is renewed fear that the president’s lawyer is still shopping for dirt about former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter as well as speaking with foreign officials who, against all evidence, have promoted the idea that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election. In fact, there are rumors that he is taping a documentary.

The concerns about Giuliani’s trip to Kiev were so pronounced that they reached officials close to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, who were advised by Americans and politicians in Ukraine not to meet with Giuliani when he was in town, according to an individual familiar with those conversations.

The president’s attorney, who has been defiant in the face of criticism for his prior efforts to target the Bidens, was similarly unmoved by the idea that his current expedition was both unseemly and unwise, the news outlet said.

“I would hope they have more important things to do than intrude on the work being done by a lawyer defending his client against another set of false and contrived charges,” Giuliani told The Daily Beast last Wednesday, while still overseas.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

White House says “get out’ to unmarried, same-sex partners of diplomats, UN staff

October 3, 2018

The Trump administration has begun denying visas to some unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and employees of the United NationsForeign Policy reported on October 1.

In order to legally remain in the country, those who are already residents must get married by December 3, the State Department has clarified. Otherwise, they will be deported within 30 days.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. characterized the decision—which foreign diplomats fear will create major hardships for same-sex couples from countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy, Foreign Policy noted.

In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the U.S. extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats. Since the June 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, U.S. policy has dictated that diplomatic visas be extended only to married spouses.

In July, the U.S. mission sent out diplomatic notes to the United Nations and representatives for foreign diplomatic missions explaining the new policy, which reversed a 2009 decision by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant visas to domestic partners of U.S. and foreign diplomats.

The contents of the diplomatic note were first reported in August by the Washington Blade.

The 2009 policy, however, did not allow a heterosexual domestic partner of a U.S. or foreign diplomat to enter the country on a diplomatic visa. “Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” reads the announcement obtained by Foreign Policy. “Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible” for a diplomatic visa.

Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, blasted the move as “needlessly cruel and bigoted” on Friday.

“But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage,” Power noted.

Alfonso Nam, the president of UN Globe, a UN LGBT staff advocacy organization, told Foreign Policy that same-sex couples are at risk of prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or has not legalized same-sex marriages.

Diplomats would be eligible for “limited exceptions” under the Trump administration’s policy if they can prove that they are from countries that outlaw same-sex partners, according to Foreign Policy.

That exception, however, reportedly does not extend to U.N. officials.

“With this change, the State Department is enforcing parity in the way they recognize opposite-sex partnerships and same-sex partnerships,” UN Globe said in a statement. “It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”

Research contact: @columlynch