Keep the Au Pair Program a Cultural Experience

Keep the Au Pair Program a Cultural Experience

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Angela Spence started this petition to Senator Elizabeth Warren and

On behalf of many families hosting au pairs within the Commonwealth, who rely on childcare and the cultural experience provided through the au pair agencies.  We have recently been made aware that the First Circuit Court has issued its decision in the case of Capron, et al v. Massachusetts Attorney General, et al. (“Capron”) wherein the court has ruled that au pairs, coming to the United States under a J-1 Visa, are not exempt from the requirements of the Massachusetts Domestic Workers’ Act of 2015 (“Domestic Workers Act”), which requires the payment of the state minimum wage and overtime. Many of us are shocked and disheartened by the response we have been given from the agency and the state on this ruling. Many of us are facing a rise in my childcare costs of over 250% overnight, something many families  cannot afford. To someone not familiar with the au pair program, it may appear to be one utilized by the wealthy given its fancy sounding name. However, it was (until this ruling) actually one of the most affordable and flexible childcare options available to families that offered a cultural experience and a once in a life time opportunity for a person to live in the US for two years . Having an au pair living within our homes has been invaluable while also providing children with a unique cultural exchange experience having a young caregiver from another country living within our homes. We urge you to consider the ramifications of this new ruling on working class families within the Commonwealth and provide legislative guidance or exempt Au Pairs from the Domestic Workers Act.  
The court opinion leaves many issues unresolved. Not only are there numerous inconsistencies between the federal au pair program and the Domestic Workers Act that require immediate clarification given that families hosting au pairs have been told that the consequences of the ruling take effect immediately, there are direct and meaningful financial impacts to tax paying families that have left many of us scrambling. 
As you may be aware, Capron requires that au pairs be treated as domestic workers. This has never been the case in the many decades that the au pair service has existed. 
There are clear differences between an au pair and a domestic worker that should be highlighted and taken into consideration:

- Au pairs arrive to the US through the US Department of State J-1 visa. The J-1 Visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the United States through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department. The federal guidelines provide that au pairs here on a J-1 visa only work for their program sponsors (the agencies) and subject to a set of strict criteria as to scope and hours of work. Domestic workers, on the other hand, are typically not subject to the strict requirements of the J-1 program.
- Host families welcoming an au pair into their homes must do so via an au pair agency who processes and maintains the visa status of the visiting au pair. These agencies charge host families approximately $9,500 for the privilege of using their services. Hiring a domestic worker does not have any similar agency or fee requirement.
- The State Department requires host families to house au pairs and provide all meals. There are strict rules as to the quality of housing to be provided. It is illegal for an au pair to live outside the host family’s home when here on an J-1 visa. Host families often provide additional benefits to their au pairs including cell phones, computers, vehicles, transportation stipends, car insurance, and the like. Host families welcome au pairs into their homes as guests for a year to experience American culture, study in the United States, and travel in exchange for childcare within the scope of federal regulations (capped at 10 hours a day and 45 hours a week). Domestic workers do not typically have similar benefits or restrictions on work.
- Host families are also required to pay $500 towards educational expenses for their au pairs to study within the United States. It is a requirement of the federal government that an au pair complete 6 course credits while on a J-1 visa. Obviously, this is not required for domestic workers. 
- Host families must provide meals for the au pair while living in the home. The Domestic Workers Act only allows families to deduct $6.50 a day for meals for their au pair whereas the cost to provide such meals is well in excess of this amount, particularly in such a high cost of living state. 

As you can see, there are numerous questions and concerns around this ruling that needs immediate guidance. Host families have been informed that the requirement to pay minimum wage and overtime is effective immediately. Given the number of open issues and unresolved questions, we ask that there be a grace period for families to comply with this change and consideration for the program to remain the same. This will allow families who need to leave the program to have enough time to find alternative childcare arrangements without an immediate and heavy financial hit. Children are at risk of finding a caretaker.
Please feel free to contact us directly.  Thousands of other families within the Commonwealth anxiously await your response and guidance on these issues.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Au Pair Host Families and supporters of the Au Pair Program.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 7,500!
At 7,500 signatures, this petition is more likely to get a reaction from the decision maker!