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Nannying Nannies in Montgomery

Montgomery County, which takes pride in being on the cutting edge of government regulation, yesterday became probably the first jurisdiction in the land to require residents who hire nannies to do so via a written contract.

The move by the government that brought you bans on trans-fats, smoking and any sales of liquor except by the county's own stores has the usual do-gooder genesis, a reflection of the fact that many domestic workers are taken advantage of by employers. After all, since many nannies are illegal immigrants, it's easy for employers to set onerous working conditions and get away with substandard treatment of their workers.

The passage of this bill--which requires residents to provide live-in help with a separate room for sleeping and "reasonable access" to a bathroom, kitchen and laundry room--is a tribute to the nannies who banded together to seek help from their government. But while it's true that many nannies are poorly paid, get little or nothing in the way of health coverage, and are required to work hours that wouldn't be allowed if they were covered by federal labor law (they are not), it's also true that conditions for domestic workers in Montgomery County are considerably better than in many other places.

Despite the unanimous vote in support of the nanny bill in the County Council, this has all the markings of a classic MoCo decision to make law as a political statement rather than as a remedy to a burning social need. The study commissioned by the county to look into the plight of domestic workers actually found that a remarkable 87 percent of county nannies ranked their employer in the top half of the ratings scale offered by the George Washington University investigators who conducted the survey. Only 38 percent said they had health insurance, and 75 percent of live-in workers said they did not receive overtime pay. But the fact is that in the world of nannies, Montgomery County is an unusually good workplace. Indeed, IRS figures show that MoCo has the highest compliance rate with the federal nanny tax of any jurisdiction in the nation. (This is perhaps the result of the secret wish or expectation harbored by all those lawyers who live in MoCo that they might someday miraculously be nominated to the Supreme Court, at which point their failure to have paid their nanny tax would be the most ignominious exit from possible glory.)

Earlier in the debate on this bill, the council was more divided. Council member Duchy Trachtenberg faced off against one of the nanny bill's sponsors, George Leventhal, on WAMU's Kojo Nnamdi Show, with Trachtenberg arguing that the nanny bill was well-intentioned but useless because it would actually "dissuade people from employing people who don't have legal status" and would "jeopardize workers by bringing up their immigration status."

The bill as passed doesn't mention immigration status and MoCo lawmakers want to stay far away from the illegal immigration debate. But Trachtenberg, who later came to support the measure, was right to have raised the concern: If the county wants to be supportive of illegal immigrants, or at least doesn't want to join Prince William County in overtly fighting against their presence, then requiring residents to put into writing their relationship with illegal domestic workers is hardly a way to encourage a don't ask-don't tell approach.

More important, this latest expression of MoCo's nanny reflex is another case of overreach. Domestic workers were excluded from federal labor law for a reason; there ought to be in any society some less formal work relationships that enable newcomers and other strivers to shape their lives in ways that standard rules of employment might not allow. So whether that means working odd hours or taking your own children along with you to work or arranging to live in a community you could otherwise never afford, there are benefits to domestic work that some people choose to embrace. Obviously, those arrangements ought not give employers permission to abuse workers in any way, but the natural remedy to those unfortunate situations is to quit and find other work. Both federal and state laws spell out a variety of rules governing domestic workers; indeed, Maryland law offers nannies the protections of the minimum wage and workers compensation.

Everyone knows there are domestic workers who are abused and who cannot come close to minimum wage, but that is an enforcement issue. I've never employed any domestic worker nor do I generally believe in the idea, but passing new laws that make it harder to hire domestic workers is not a symbolic statement of MoCo's righteousness. It is, rather, yet another example of Montgomery County acting as a world unto itself--its nanny bill is no more likely to be enforced than those state laws that seek to protect domestic workers, and the MoCo bill only adds a level of fear and discouragement to a relationship that has endured for centuries, in many cases without abuse.

By Marc Fisher |  July 16, 2008; 6:38 AM ET
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Comments

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I totally agree with you. This was only a gesture and will not really protect domestic workers. People that will abuse their workers will anyway just like employers who are covered under Federal laws. This is just another example of reactionary law making. No real thought was went into this. I'm sure there are better ways to protect those workers who are abused. I wish these council members would spend their time on real problems.

Posted by: live in Mont. Co | July 16, 2008 6:53 AM

I agree with you about the law and the lawmakers, but this comment has me puzzled:

"I've never employed any domestic worker nor do I generally believe in the idea,"

Huh? You don't believe in the idea of employing domestic workers?

Even if you had tons of money and lots of other obligations taking up your time, you wouldn't hire someone to help keep your house clean? Or mow your yard?

If I had the money I'd never wash another article of clothing, nor wash a dish, much less vaccuum or dust or mop. Or take my car in for an oil change.

Posted by: Alice | July 16, 2008 7:27 AM

I do not think illegal nannys should be abused. I think they should be locked up in jail for six months and shipped to Mexico. Who cares what country they are from, Let Mexico share some of our problems. Not hearing much about the Bush drug runners and coyotes lately. Are they still making 90 plus percent of border crossing attemps ok?

Posted by: Budswisr | July 16, 2008 7:49 AM

The fact that Montgomery's nannies are generally well-treated doesn't mean it wouldn't be advantageous for some of them to have a written contract in place. Plus there's this tidbit of the article, which you neglected to discuss:

"If a worker declined to sign a contract, the employer would be required to obtain a written statement that a contract was offered and declined."

Also, how is it true that providing a written contract makes it harder to hire a domestic worker? Presumably, even when hiring informally, the employer and worker agreed on certain conditions verbally - taking 30 minutes to write those down and thus document them (should they ever be breached) is not excessively onerous.

And I know this is just bad writing, but your last line makes the case for the bill quite clear:

"...the MoCo bill only adds a level of fear and discouragement to a relationship that has endured for centuries, in many cases without abuse."

In *many* cases, in a relationship that's endured for centuries? Sounds like we need some additional protections for these workers pronto.

I agree that MoCo loves regulating too much, but your ire is misplaced here.

Posted by: Lindemann | July 16, 2008 8:18 AM

I think a nanny-contract is a good idea, but that it should not be regulated. I am annoyed that MOCO has to regulate every aspect of my life from buying alchohol to renting a room in my house to telling me what to eat at resturaunts and now this. There already are tons of hoops to jump through to hire a nanny with state tax, federal tax and unemployment details to handle. This is just one more law to deal with. It is also one more small thing that makes it harder for two working parents to raise their kids. I should mention that nannies also have leverage because the transistion costs of changing child care is high. Our nanny already takes more vacation than we planned and has vetoed some of our plans. That is fine, but I don't think she is a vulnerable worker. In the end, the harder it is to hire a nanny, the fewer nanny jobs they will find out there (Did they seriously regulate access to a bathroom as a condition of employement?)

Posted by: MoCo Nanny Employer | July 16, 2008 8:40 AM

How ironic the nanny government of MoCo has passed a nanny bill. The People's Republic of Montgomery County has spoken! More socialist nonsense from the guy who wasted my tax dollars on a $65,000 bathroom for himself. Vote the jokers like Ike Leggett out!

Posted by: Anonymous | July 16, 2008 8:42 AM

You are totally missing the point of this law. It actually has nothing to do with illegal immigrants who are taken advantage. It is about stopping human trafficking.

Domestic workers are brought to this country legally with elaborate promises of payment and schooling. Then they are locked in the home, never paid, never allowed, physically and sexually abused. They are literally slaves. They are among the hardest to locate of trafficking victims because of their isolation in the home.

This bill, at least, allows the maids some recourse, should they ever be rescued from their situation.

Please look into the figures for federal convictions for human trafficking and see how many were located in Maryland. It does occur. Then go ahead and dare to criticize a bill that helps these victims.

Posted by: ep | July 16, 2008 9:06 AM

I think this is a good idea.
Nannies and other household help are some of the most important employees you can have.
Spelling out the terms and expectations seems like a very good idea.
Not everyone comes into such an arrangement with the same ideas. This seems like a way to avoid future problems.

You can get on your high-horse about people who hire domestic help, but in some slices of life it is a necessity.

In areas of the country where domestic help was/is common then community standards for terms evolved. MoCo is much more mobile and those standards aren't necessarily part of the collective consciousness. Better to formalize this.

If you respect your family then you want to respect those that you hire to care for them. If that's too much for an employer to do then they've got no business hiring household help.

Posted by: RoseG | July 16, 2008 9:11 AM

Am I the only one to see the irony? A county council member argued that the bill would "dissuade people from employing people who don't have legal status". A local GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL wanted to avoid dissuading people from breaking U.S. immigration laws?

Posted by: Ossian | July 16, 2008 9:11 AM

MoCo is trying to throw a band-aid on a larger problem. The US refuses to face up to the fact that in many houses both parents work to pay the mortgage, so we need free state supported pre-school childcare like France has (we also need state supported health care). Marc doesn't have small kids, so his objections to nannies are mostly theoretical, but if he got down in the trenches the scales would fall from his eyes. Like everyone else I cobble together a solution, but maybe my grandchildren will catch a break.

Posted by: Cranky | July 16, 2008 9:17 AM

Actually, MoCo can vote in all the laws they want about illegal's. They all get thrown out the window by federal law.

It is illegal to employ somebody who is violating federal law by entering this country illegally. Period. End of story.

No amount of state/county/city laws or liberals holding their breath until they are blue in the face will change that.

So, if you employ that illegal - to build your house or wash your clothes - you can be fined and put in prison (depends on the judge/jury you get) for violating federal law. Last time I checked, there was no such thing as a federal misdemeanor ... all the federal laws are felonies if violated.

Of course, the federal prisons are also the ones with the golf courses, so a few years to practice your stroke may not be all that bad. You probably can get the cable TV provider to fix any problems a lot faster than we can on the outside too.

Posted by: DC Voter | July 16, 2008 9:30 AM

European aue pairs and nannies who come here on tourist visas and overstay thier welcome are just as illegal as anyone who sneaks across the southern border. Jurisdictions that allow families to employ illegals as nannies while chasing away day laborers because one has a darker skin than the other are just plain racist. We are not tlking about kids picking up weekend yard work or evening babysitting assignements. These are adults and everyone involved needs to comply with ALL local, state and national labor laws, including immigration status, or face the consequences outlined in statute.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | July 16, 2008 9:30 AM

All this is requiring is that domestic help get their terms up employment down in writing. This is something that is so common in almost all regular jobs in this country that it is taken for granted.

Holy cow, Fisher, you have really blown this out of proportion.

Posted by: bkp | July 16, 2008 9:31 AM

I don't understand. DC and MoCO are the ultimate expressions of leftist utopia, the kind of society that Fisher keeps squaking VA should be. So why is he always criticizing the OBVIOUS policy decisions that come to fruition in those sorts of Leftopias? Very confusing.

Posted by: K-Romulus | July 16, 2008 9:43 AM

Marc self-righteously says: "I've never employed any domestic worker nor do I generally believe in the idea."

Please clarify further, Marc. How do you believe domestic chores should be handled when both parents work? Do you feel one parent ought to give up her career when the kids come? Do you feel it's the responsibility of the remaining parent to miraculously double his income, in a world where parents are competing against two-income families to obtain decent housing and schooling?

Without such clarification, such smug and superior statements are nothing more than gratuitous insults to much of your readership.

Posted by: dal20402 | July 16, 2008 9:44 AM

Marc, your smugness and government-bashing are getting very tiresome.
This law addresses some real issues. Just once, couldn't you find some home-equity scheme pushers to bash? Some teardown-mansionizers? Some other private-sector entity doing real harm to our communities?

Posted by: SilverSpring | July 16, 2008 10:12 AM

Maybe Marc never needed a nanny because he never lived beyond what he could afford. If people wants McMansions, both parents need to work full time. Those people that are a bit more humble and chose to live within the means they can afford don't need nannies and don't add to the illegal immigrant problems we now have.

Posted by: Keeping it real | July 16, 2008 10:16 AM

The law should also require that you can offer offer the contract to someone who is here legally.

Posted by: FLvet | July 16, 2008 10:37 AM

Keeping it Real:

One problem with being humble and living within your means - the liberals are going to bail out those people who purchased houses they couldn't afford. People like me, who stayed within my means, will pay for it and get screwed in the process.

I guess I should have gone ahead and bought the McMansion.

Posted by: DC Voter | July 16, 2008 10:43 AM

I too am really confused by this statement: "I've never employed any domestic worker nor do I generally believe in the idea"

Did you mean you don't believe in hiring illegal-immigrant domestic workers, or any at all?

And what does "don't believe in" really mean? Because it's not like believing or disbelieving in god; there's no element of mystery to it. Do you mean you don't support the practice of hiring domestic workers? You don't see the value in hiring domestic workers? You're such a good writer! You should be able to do better than the hazy "believe in."

And where do you draw the line on the workers you do or don't hire? You've never paid a babysitter to look after your kids? Hired someone to clear the snow from outside your domicile? Had your clothes drycleaned? Dude, those are all domestic tasks you pay others to perform.

Unless you're up nights in your basement making soap from lye and beef tallow, I think you'll agree that we all pay for help around the house in some way or another.

Posted by: azalea | July 16, 2008 10:58 AM

Yes, Marc, please clarify the statement "I've never employed any domestic worker, nor do I generally believe in the idea."

So you gave up your career to raise your children? Or your wife did? Or you guys just let your children run free in the fields of Upper NW while you both went to the office? I'm curious to hear how that worked out.

Posted by: PQ | July 16, 2008 11:07 AM

BTW, Azalea, I am cracking up at the image of Marc in his basement making soap from lye and beef tallow.

Posted by: PQ | July 16, 2008 11:08 AM

On balance, this is a good idea. First off, it has little to do with immigration, assertions not withstanding. FEDERAL LAW requires you to keep on file a form (I-9?) documenting the legal status of any domestic worker. The law is already very clear on this matter.

We've worked out our home care situation, but I believe such a contract would protect the worker. Those working in homes are vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Such a form might also aid home employers, most of whom have little idea what to do when starting out.

Marc - like others, I'm troubled by your flip comment about domestic help. My wife and I discussed what to do when she started to go back to work after our children (twins) were born. When they were around 9 months, a friend of the family expressed interest in caring for them and voila!, we had a nanny. Our twins have (relatively) stable child care in their home environment and we have someone whom we can trust taking care of them. The child of a friend of mine was abused in day care, so I'm glad to have the situation that works.

DC Voter - You would have lost that McMansion in foreclosure. The proposed bills aren't going to help someone who can't possibly afford their place to live. Keep to the topic at hand rather than silly ad hominem arguments.

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 16, 2008 11:18 AM

"European aue pairs and nannies who come here on tourist visas and overstay thier welcome are just as illegal as anyone who sneaks across the southern border."

I don't think that's accurate. Au Pairs acquire the appropriate visas to work here. They are not illegals.

Posted by: Cliff | July 16, 2008 11:29 AM

You really missed the reason why MoCo legislation are pupets of Casa De Maryland who support any legislation that legitimizes the use of illegal alien labor. I think good ole George Leventhal is on their board.

This is just another sanctuary policy that enables illegal aliens to work. How does the Federal law that prohibits the hiring of illegal aliens fit into this bill?

Posted by: Herndon Resident | July 16, 2008 11:49 AM

I generally agree with Marc Fisher when he takes the Montgomery County government to task for overregulation, but some of his criticisms are sweeping to the point of false.

He calls it "the government that brought you bans on trans-fats, smoking and any sales of liquor except by the county's own stores". I agree that the trans fats measure was unnecessary (in a time of supposed belt tightening what business does the county have spending money testing the chemical content of foods?) but maybe he should bash New York City first, as they were the first major jurisdiction to pass this measure.

Smoking in private, at least, is still legal, though I agree that they overdid the anti-public smoking measures. (Montgomery is not alone in this; DC and MD statewide too.) As to liquor, he should specify that it's package liquor that is sold in county run stores; the liquor monopoly (which I think should be ended) hasn't prevented many hundreds of liquor by the drink bars and restaruants. And if you want to talk about liquor store monopolies why not criticize Virginia's ABC? At least MoCo residents don't have to drive 20+ miles to find a store like many Virginians do.

A better target for criticism of the Montgomery County government might be its misplaced spending priorities--like cutting bus routes and services for private sector workers while rolling over and rubberstamping the large pay raises and benefits demanded by the public employee unions during a time of supposed fiscal trouble.

Posted by: mkarns | July 16, 2008 12:04 PM

Marc:

As an attorney who represents domestic workers and a active supporter of this legislation, I can assure you that this bill is necessary because of the severity of the abuses of domestic workers in the county. While there may be some domestic workers in the county who are well-treated compared to other places, many more are chronically underpaid or not paid at all, provided with a mat on the floor in the basement to sleep on instead of a bedroom, required to work between 60-80 hours per week without receiving overtime, and receive no sick time, vacation time, paid holidays, or health insurance. I sincerely hope that this is not the type of "informal economy" you believe should exist in our society-- one that creates second class or exploited workers.

This bill is an important first step toward enabling domestic workers to perform their work with dignity and gain many of the rights and benefits that the rest of us take for granted.

Posted by: Jessica Salsbury | July 16, 2008 12:07 PM

"European aue pairs and nannies who come here on tourist visas and overstay thier welcome are just as illegal as anyone who sneaks across the southern border."

I don't think that's accurate. Au Pairs acquire the appropriate visas to work here. They are not illegals.

Many do get the appropriate visas and they are welcome to come; but many do not since one of the requirments for a work visa is demonstrating the job was first offered to citizens or legal residents. There is a small Au Pair program for cultural exchange (similar to student visas) but it is very small and many nannies overstay otherwise legal visas. Anyone employing a nanny should simply ask for a copy of thier visa and check the expiration date.

Posted by: Woodbridge VA | July 16, 2008 12:07 PM

I think the Nanny's' bill is a very needed tool for workers that are right at the bottom of the scale. What's so bad about signing a contract that guarantees that the people around you, or in this case working for you, will work and live in decent conditions. As folks who live/work in Montgomery county, we should be PROUD for being the the First county in the nation to work for the protection of EVERY person that lives/works there.

Posted by: Teresa | July 16, 2008 12:20 PM

Marc,

I rarely agree with you but you hit the nail on the head this time.

What infuriates me is the statement from Duchy how at first she didn't support the bill because it may "dissuade people from employing people who don't have legal status" and would "jeopardize workers by bringing up their immigration status."

Duchy has little regard for the law and continues to encourage illegal behavior.
She is pathetic.


Posted by: Fred | July 16, 2008 12:26 PM

Herndon - if you're going to bother posting, read the previous posts. It's illegal to hire an alien without a work permit. The MoCo legislation does not contravene federal law, which requires that employers verify eligibility and keep this on record. If said individual uses a fake SSN, then the payments will be flagged at the end of the year.

BTW - even if you hire an illegal, you're still required to pay minimum wage. However, anyone trying to get child care for less than $5/hour gets what they deserve (sadly, the child gets what he/she doesn't deserve).

BB

Posted by: Fairlington Blade | July 16, 2008 12:28 PM

Another good reason to not raise a family in Montgomery County. Costs to have a nanny will rise and fewer will be employed. Some nannies who were making $10 per our will go back to their home countries and make $1 per hour.

Posted by: Perry | July 16, 2008 12:32 PM

I support this bill. This bill should not be attacked, because of its relevance to those nannies who could fall victim to horrendous working conditions, i.e. not permitted to leave the home, sexually abused, victims of wage theft, passport withheld, physically abused and psychologically abused. This document would be invaluable in the court of law for those who could be victims of trafficking. I find it particularly hard to believe that people could criticize a bill that is only seeking to further human rights. Just because conditions may be better for some nannies (Great that both the Nannies and the employers were able to establish a good working relationship), it does not mean conditions are good for ALL nannies. We should strive for human rights for all, not just for some or for many. I know if I was personally being severely mistreated, I would want my council members to stand up for me as well. I applaud their efforts.

Please everyone, remember, this is not an immigration issue, but an issue of human rights or rights to the money we are owed for the work that was performed. Why wouldn't we want the best for those who may be caring for our children, our elderly parents, or our home? Also, please do not use this bill as an outlet for your hate against undocumented immigrants, or how some of you disrespectfully refer to them as "illegals". They are human, and referring to them as "illegals", only serves to dehumanize them. Also, remember that many domestic workers come to this country with status, e.g. Au Pairs, A3 and G5 visas etc...

On a personal note, I was raised by a Nanny, and I understand how delicate the relationship can be between employer and nanny. There were many moments where I felt tension between my parents and my nanny. I think a contract would make moments like these easier to handle because, for example, vacation time has already been negotiated, or sick days has already been negotiated. This will only help to foster communication between the employer and the nanny.

Posted by: nanny supporter | July 16, 2008 12:46 PM

Marc, as you rightly noted, domestic workers are not covered under our labor laws. However, this does not mean that domestic workers should not try to organize to improve their working and living conditions. Promises made by an employer is not enough. A written contract that provides a modicum of order and clear expectations (from both parties) is not much to ask.

Domestic workers demanded this bill be passed because they identified what would make their lives better. Some workers face sexual harrassment, others have been paid below the minimum wage, and others never know when thier work day will end. Having a bottom line agreement to clearly define days off, starting time, etc. are basic for any worker. The County government simply agreed. So do I.

I remember as a child waiting for my grandmother to make it back to nyc from a New Jersey suburb for a holiday or a weekend dinner and constantly being disappointed when she didn't arrive. Her employer would inevitably host dinner parties for their own family and required my grandmother to work on her "days off". Did she receive overtime pay? No. BTW, my grandmother would have benefited from such a law. As would have our entire family. But, we didn't have the benefit of a domestic worker organization nor a local governemnt that was wiling to try to find solutions.

I applaud MoCo for making an attempt to solve some of the problems faced by domestic workers.

Posted by: Eddie | July 16, 2008 12:48 PM

Join other citizens in the fight against illegal immigration in Maryland. Help us remove our elected officials who aid and abet illegals, making Maryland a sanctuary state. Join www.HelpSaveMaryland.com

Posted by: Help Save Maryland | July 16, 2008 1:07 PM

Jessica Salsbury,

You stated:

"While there may be some domestic workers in the county who are well-treated compared to other places, many more are chronically underpaid or not paid at all, provided with a mat on the floor in the basement to sleep on instead of a bedroom, required to work between 60-80 hours per week without receiving overtime, and receive no sick time, vacation time, paid holidays, or health insurance."

Do you have any support whatsoever for your quite ludicrous contention that poorly-treated and under- or un-compensated nannies greatly outnumber those who are "well-treated?" Any cites you can throw out?

Frankly, I believe you're engaging in baseless hyperbole.

Posted by: DC Atty | July 16, 2008 1:15 PM

As a resident of Montgomery County, I am extremely excited and proud of my County Council for being the first to unanimously pass a bill recognizing the rights of domestic workers. Not only does this bill protect domestic workers by ensuring their right to a basic contract before starting work, it also acknowledges the plight of the many women who are domestic workers. Just because it might (and I emphasize MIGHT because I don't think one can say that paying 'the federal nanny tax' takes away from systematic exploitation in the workplace) be true that domestic workers in Montgomery County are 'better off' than in other places, it doesn't mean that there are not many women in the county who are being exploited for their labor. The bill is trying to remedy that situation and hold employers accountable.

In a perfect world, the "less formal work relationships" mentioned in the article might be feasible - but in reality those informal relationships often lead to exploitative conditions; especially when the worker is required to work odd hours against their will or never allowed to leave the house in that "community they couldn't otherwise afford." I speak from my experience working with domestic workers who have escaped their abusive situations and have told me personally about not being allowed to leave the house, being paid much below minimum wage, physical/sexual harassment and not getting much time off work. Thus, domestic workers are elated by this bill that guarantees them a contract so the above situations can be avoided.

Again, I'm PROUD to be a resident of MoCo - a place that recognizes the rights for all workers!

Posted by: neha | July 16, 2008 1:19 PM

@Cranky: Delta's ready when you are, mon ami.

Posted by: The Vast Right Wing Conservative | July 16, 2008 1:24 PM

Someone said...

"This bill should not be attacked, because of its relevance to those nannies who could fall victim to horrendous working conditions, i.e. not permitted to leave the home, sexually abused, victims of wage theft, passport withheld, physically abused and psychologically abused."

We already have laws to cover the above conditions / situations.

If you are being abused physically call 911. Geez...

Posted by: Fred | July 16, 2008 1:43 PM

Fred, some of them cannot call 911 because they are illegal. Heaven forbid they would be deported back to where they came from.

Posted by: Jess | July 16, 2008 1:49 PM

People in this country illegally who don't respect our laws do not deserve respect and are appropriately labeled an "illegal".

Posted by: Fred | July 16, 2008 1:50 PM

Lot of posts today from CASA of Maryland employees.

Isn't lunch break over?

Posted by: Fred | July 16, 2008 1:54 PM

Stop attacking Fisher for leading a lifestyle where he can actually manage his own household without hired help.

If you live reasonably modestly and don't subscribe to the unbalanced rat-race mentality of so many MoCo residents, you MIGHT not have to rely on third-world labor to "do your chores" or raise your kids.

Posted by: ICleanMyOwnMess | July 16, 2008 1:59 PM

One the one hand, this bill is good because it makes it a bit more difficult for anyone to get away with outright slavery. Not too many people are aware that Montgomery County has one of the highest rates of slavery of any jurisdiction in the USA. Yet it does, with the vast majority of these being African women brought here as young teens, lured here by a promise of sponsorship and education paid for by domestic service. When they arrive, they are kept as virtual prisoners in the house, worked at nasty tasks for little or not pay other than room and board, and sometimes subjected to scandalous treatment. Usually the "employers" control the immigration or visa documents of the slaves, and threaten to notify immigration officials for deportation proceedings should the slave become balky. Frequently these exploitative relationships are as much about sex as work.

Montgomery County's elected officials generally accept this as a part of the "rich tapestry of modern Montgomery". They'll say "it's their way" and even "it has become a common practice" as if that could somehow justify chattel slavery.

Evidently someone pointed out to the Council that it was time for them to do something about this.

Will this bill end the importation under false pretenses? Not at all. Yet it provides some legal recourse short of a trial for kidnapping or chattel enslavement being brought by the victim or the State. Continuing the County's tendency to try to be a law unto itself, self-immunizing from the powers of the State and Federal government and the laws of those levels of government, the County simply legislates decent pay and basic personal rights even for slaves. That this may eventually lay the groundwork for a Union of Domestic Workers is only gravy on the potatoes, so to speak, and such organization gives additional eyes and ears, while the law gives additional teeth, to CASA de Maryland.

Posted by: Thomas Hardman | July 16, 2008 2:10 PM

As Vice-President of Nanny Poppinz Corporate, Inc,. a nationwide nanny referral service that takes care of both families and nannies with extraordinary customer service, I applaud this action. Nanny Poppinz recommends work agreements and feel they benefit both parties equally by setting out expectations, pay, vacation, days off, schedule, job duties, overtime payment agreements, etc. Families benefit by having their job position clearly defined and boundaries kept. They also benefit by having a happy nanny and at Nanny Poppinz we believe that a happy nanny makes for a happy family. The family will be less likely to have a high turnover of child care providers in their children's lives and this is a benefit becaus children get attached quickly. Nannies benefit by being compensated for extra hours or work. We have many nannie that do not mind helping the families with "extra" work or time as long as they are compensated. At Nanny Poppinz, we feel so strongly that having a work agreement is such a good practice that we have a clause in our contract with the parents that if a work agreement is not done between the family and the nanny and sent back to us within three days of hiring a nanny that the contract between the family and our agency is null and void.

Posted by: Susan McCloskey | July 16, 2008 2:31 PM

To "ICleanMyOwnMess"...

I agree that no one should attack Marc for managing his own household without hired help. (I do the same thing, if you don't count the time I sent a rug out to be professionally cleaned, and that I buy my soap ready-made!)

What I and some others are taking issue with is the whole "I don't believe in it [hiring domestic workers]" business. Does he mean no one should?

That's the part that's irksome, especially from a guy who's usually so live-and-let-live.

Marc made it clear why he thinks this was a bad bill (he and I disagree on that, but at lease his argument makes some logical sense), but why he's so against hiring help of any kind not only sounds pretty harsh from someone so reasonable, but comes with no explanation.

I think that's why people are pressing for an explanation of his hardline position, not of his decision to go without paid household help.

Posted by: azalea | July 16, 2008 3:29 PM

I find it ironic that while Mr. Fisher applauds an unregulated domestic worker industry because it facilitates "newcomers and other strivers" to find flexible work, he does not believe in the idea of hiring domestic workers. Yes, informal employment has always existed and it has always led to employer abuses of workers. While Montgomery County may not be as bad for domestic workers as other places, violations of workers' rights continue at an alarming rate. Regulating the profession will encourage all sides to follow the rules, benefiting domestic workers first and foremost.

Posted by: Jonathan | July 16, 2008 3:35 PM

Lets not forget that while this measure may extend some protection to workers who are illegal it also protects the self employed americans who may not know to ask for a contract. I once worked as a nanny (not in MoCo) but one day was unceremoniously
fired. I had just had a performance review that had gone well and one evening was told that I had 3 days to leave. My employer refused to give me an explaination for my dismissal or severance pay. I was born in NY and had a college education but still found myself homeless and unemployed simply because I did not know to ask for a contract from the start. This measure takes out the guesswork for the young and naive.

Posted by: Former Nanny | July 16, 2008 4:10 PM

Under this law, the employer will be reminded that Federal Law commands him/her to complete an immigrations FORM "I-9". The law requires: "All U.S. employers are responsible for completion and retention of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. On the form, the employer must verify the employment eligibility and identity documents presented by the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9.

Is this the intent of the nanny law?

Posted by: Eye Nine | July 16, 2008 4:11 PM

I'm confused--why is it such an imposition to require a written employment contract for significant domestic personal services? I would think that hiring a nanny to watch your children for more than 20 hours per week would entail a discussion of pay, benefits, working hours and conditions, days off, use of a family car, overtime situations, etc., anyway. The law just requires employers to do what most employers do anyway--put it in writing. Informality may work fine when you're hiring a babysitter to watch your kids for the evening, but if you're hiring someone for the longer term, wouldn't you be discussing these issues anyway? The contract could come in handy for both sides if an issue arises, and may help prevent some exploitation of domestic workers.

As to the county official's comment that she doesn't want to "dissuade people from employing people who don't have legal status"--well, I don't have any particular animosity towards undocumented workers and I live in DC, not the 'burbs, but I think it's just fine to dissuade people from breaking the law. The employment contract requirement doesn't seem to me to evince any particular anti-immigrant sentiment--it applies to employers whether they hire immigrants or citizens/LPRs.

Posted by: Katya | July 16, 2008 4:17 PM

Can offenders be punished by a nanny?

Posted by: Richard | July 16, 2008 4:33 PM

This is step in the right direction by Montgomery County, and hope it will serve as a model for other counties and municipalities around the country of how they can begin to address domestic workers' rights. When we talk about domestic workers, while lots of immigrants work these jobs, this is not just an issue of immigration at all. African-American women have worked these jobs in the US since days of slavery. When Fisher claims domestic workers have been excluded for a "reason", perhaps he should consider the historical implications of that reason, and it was not designed just as a means of flexible work as he implies. Regardless of who has held jobs over time, it has continued to be a field where workers are prone to mistreatment. And I think he misses the point here--a contract doesn't change the characteristics of informal work he cites, or truly regulate it, it just creates a way to establish greater communication between employer and employee. Honestly, most people who employ domestic workers have never been employers, and it's a way to help them do the right thing. (let's give people the benefit of the doubt and assume they want to do the right thing, but of course there have been egregious exceptions in Montgomery County) Both my parents worked growing up, and they needed a nanny for my siblings and me in order for them to work and support our family. My parents tried to do their best to determine what was right for our nanny, but it was new for them too. Sometimes things worked, and sometimes there was disagreement and frustration on both ends. It would have been hugely helpful to have some guidelines and create a contract, but the idea never struck them or most people. Yeah, that's great that Fisher himself doesn't need help around the house, but many households where both parents work, or for single mothers, that's not an option. Cheers to the Montgomery County Council for passing this bill, jeers to Marc Fisher!

Posted by: ali | July 16, 2008 4:50 PM

DC Atty:

If you're looking for statistics on domestic worker abuse, here is a link to the 2006 study of domestic worker conditions in Montgomery County:
http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/pdf/agenda/cm/2006/060516/20060516_hhs01.pdf.

Some findings:
- 51% of live-ins earned less than the Maryland minimum wage
- 75% of live-ins did not receive overtime pay, despite the fact that the average workweek was 58 hours
- only 38% of live-ins and 16% of live-outs reported some type of health insurance.

Posted by: Jessica Salsbury | July 16, 2008 5:11 PM

Yes, Marc is usually fairly logical, that's why his "not beliving in the idea of domestic help" seems so odd. "not believing" in something seems quite disapproving.

And if you disapprove of having someone help you with child care or house work in your house, what about child care in a day care center or in a provider's home? How is that any better? And how is taking clothes to the cleaners different than having someone come to your house to help you do laundry? For that matter, how different is it to take your car in for an oil change or a tire rotation, compared to having someone come to your house and help with work there?

Seems pretty illogical to me. Logic would dictate that either you never have anyone do anything for you that you could do yourself, or that you find none of these types of things objectionable.

Posted by: Alice | July 16, 2008 5:36 PM

Mr. Fisher,

You are really missing the point. This legislation shows that this society is ready to move forward. Obama, as candidate, is probably the best example.

I am a US Citizen and I live in Montgomery County. In this county, because is located close to Washington DC, often we encounter domestic workers working for diplomats who are living and treated as slaves. I call that modern slavery and that should not be acceptable.

As sociologist, I read this legislation as a message that modern slavery is not tolerable anymore. I am proud that my representatives in MOCO are endorsing this legislation.

Posted by: Francisco Acosta | July 16, 2008 5:37 PM

moco has now created yet another govt dept to monitor the citizens of moco. next we will be told of the required tax increase to fund this new dept and its payrolls, office reqmts, retirement plans etc etc.

when will the council learn to stop spending money and start trimming their fat.

Posted by: sheldon toby | July 16, 2008 8:47 PM

A priceless comment: "If you live reasonably modestly and don't subscribe to the unbalanced rat-race mentality of so many MoCo residents, you MIGHT not have to rely on third-world labor to "do your chores" or raise your kids."

And if you decide to be a 1 income household once you have kids. If you're competing for housing with 2 income households, get ready for a looooong commute, baby.

BB

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Posted by: dententic | July 17, 2008 12:10 PM

Where were all the objectors in this blog at the Bill 2-08 hearing after the bill was first introduced? There were many testifying in favor of it, and a large Casa of Maryland presence at the hearing and I think only two testifying against, and they were radical anti-illegals. There were many Public Safety Commission meetings between then and now, amending the bill in various ways. I suggest that anyone who feels this bill passed them by propose to montgomerycountymd.gov that they make bills easier to track for MC citizens. There needs to me a facility to search by bill number and name, with links to all the pdfs and videos on that bill as it progresses, until it becomes legislation or dies.

Posted by: Susi | July 17, 2008 12:34 PM

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