10.000 Au Pairs in the USA will be benefiting from a class action filed against some US Au Pair agencies, accused of keeping the Au Pair wages low on purpose
These agencies operate as the only legal intermediary between Au Pairs, applying from all over the world, and the American Host Families
that want to host them. They are the only organizations authorized by the government to provide the Au Pairs with the J1 visa. They also supply the Au Pairs with induction courses for childcare, activities during their free time, but most importantly, they inform
both the Host Family and the Au Pair about the pocket money
Pocket money is, indeed, the main character of this story: it is important to know that the minimum wage for Au Pairs in the USA is considered to be $195,75 per week, which corresponds to $7.25 for 45 hours of work minus 40% for board and accommodation.
According to AP news
, these Au Pair agencies have deliberately kept this amount as the maximum
amount for the Au Pairs’ wage, instead of specifying that this is only the minimum
wage and without informing the Au Pair that they could negotiate their pay with the Host Family, taking into consideration factors like duties, extra time, location and number of children.
For this reason, Au Pairs have taken it to court to get some explanations, but also to obtain a repayment of what was not given to them during their time working as Au Pairs in the USA. This class action was originally started by 11 Au Pairs, from Colombia, Mexico, Germany, Australia and South Africa, as explained in the AP News article
These Au Pairs also share their own personal stories: Alejandra from Mexico
explains that she was mistreated by her Host Family and fired after she couldn’t perform some of her duties because she was ill; on the other hand, Eva from Germany expresses the concern that focusing on the money will make people lose the main aim of the Au Pair program, which is the cultural exchange
for both Au Pair and Host Family.
After the Fairness Hearing on July 18th, the Court granted final approval to the settlement, which means that all the Au Pairs that worked in the USA between 2009 and 2018 were eligible to file claims and obtain a compensation. The deadline for filing these claims was May 2019: out of 160,000 eligible Au Pairs, 10,000 filed the claims in time and received an average payment of $3500 each.
The agencies were not accused of any wrongdoing officially, but they will have to make sure to inform Au Pairs and Host Families about the possibility of negotiating the Au Pair wage moving forward.
What do you think? Is the Au Pair program a job? Or do you think we shouldn’t focus on the money but more on the cultural exchange factor?
Let us know in the comments below!