|Image courtesy evilerin|
I would much prefer to subject myself to Socratic grilling.
Despite babysitting's energy-sucking potential, some segments of the internet seem shocked and offended that babysitters expect to be paid minimum wage.
And maybe they're right to be shocked. Federal law doesn't require it.
The gap in the law is not because babysitters are often young people, although federal law does permit paying young people less. Generally, federal law permits paying employees younger than 20 a special smaller minimum wage of $4.25 an hour for their first 90 days of work with any employer. This is probably a legal relic based on the idea that the Real Wage was earned by the father and any child working was working for spending money over the summer. But babysitting is exempt even from the reduced minimum wage requirement for young workers.
Casual babysitting is exempt from minimum wage law. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, casual babysitters and companions to the elderly or infirm are exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. Domestic workers are covered--those who receive at least $1,700 in 2009 in cash wages from one employer in a calendar year, or who work a total of more than eight hours a week for one or more employers.
The law has been slow to develop for full-on domestic work as well. The first state domestic workers rights bill was passed in New York in 2010. California's "Babysitter Bill" passed, but was never signed in to law.
No matter what the law says, it's important to think carefully (and broadly) about the value and cost of child, elder, and companion care. One argument is that caregivers shouldn't be paid minimum wage because "they just sit there watching TV with them." By that logic, we shouldn't pay security guards minimum wage because "all they do is sit there." Some argue against paying minimum wage because they cannot afford it. By that logic, people should be allowed to pay what they can at the grocery store.
Certainly, every family should have access to affordable child care. But the answer is not to blame caregivers asking to be paid a minimum wage for a job. Babysitting, nannying, and all forms of domestic caregiving are real jobs, and should be compensated accordingly.
Granted, there are important distinctions between casual babysitters and full-time caregivers. However, that distinction does not justify paying your neighbor $2 an hour to babysit Junior. That is not work. That is a favor. In the absence of a legal requirement, please choose to do the right thing.
Again, a reminder this is not legal advice, just information. You should talk to a lawyer for realsies if you are here for any reason that isn't idle curiosity.
- Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 USC §201 et seq.; 29 CFR Parts 510 to 794)
- United States Department of Labor - Wage and Hour Division - Fact Sheet: Proposed Rule Changes Concerning In-Home Care Industry under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
- United States Department of Labor - Youth & Labor > Wages
- Anna Almendrala, California Babysitter Bill: Understanding A.B. 889 (Oct. 14, 2011).
- Sal Gentile, PBS Need to Know - The Daily Need - Paterson signs first-ever domestic workers rights bill (Aug. 31, 2010).
- Domestic Workers United
- Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Campaign - Know Your Rights
- Rachael Larimore, Slate, California Gives a Whole New Meaning to the Term “Nanny State”