Biglaw, Feminism, Gender, Kids, Women's Issues

Will New York’s Nanny Law Make It Harder for Career Women?

The New York State Senate yesterday passed its version of the Nanny Law. If signed by Governor Paterson, the law would require employers to give domestic workers paid vacation and sick days, as well as 14 days notice before termination. The benefits would apply to legal and illegal immigrants.

Essentially, it would require people to treat domestic employees like employees instead of serfs.

It sounds like a wonderful law. It sounds like the right thing to do. It sounds … utterly unenforceable. On True/Slant, Claudia Deutsch points out:

Sure, it sounds compassionate and embracing to say that anyone, legal or not, should have a right to recourse if they are being exploited. But how exactly does an illegal immigrant sue an employer without outing himself/herself? I can see a worst-case scenario if this passes, whereby people who currently employ citizens and legals might actively seek illegals, just to avoid the cost and paperwork.

Enforcing this law will be somebody else’s problem. But for the Biglaw families out there, the real question is whether this law will cause unnecessary problems in a market that already seems to work pretty efficiently….

Opponents of the bill have fallen back on the usual histrionics. The New York Times reports:

State Senator Andrew J. Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island, said he voted against the bill because it might cause some mothers to keep quiet about caregivers suspected of being abusive in their homes rather than providing termination pay and possibly having to explain themselves in court.

“I just think that’s wrong when it comes to a parent-child situation in a person’s home,” Mr. Lanza said.

Thus continues State Senator Lanza’s penchant for saying things that are totally ridiculous. First of all, the Senate bill waives the 14-day termination notice requirement in cases of suspected abuse. But more importantly, it is simply implausible that parents who suspect their child is being abused by a nanny would “keep quiet” about it because they’re afraid of having to explain themselves in court.

The more important criticism of the bill is whether or not it will simply make it harder for families to work and raise children at the same time — while not really helping the domestic workers who are the intended beneficiaries.

A couple of weeks ago, Kash reported on InsideCounsel’s leadership awards, noting women who seemingly “have it all” in terms of their careers and their families. That’s a nice soundbite, if by “having it all” we mean “having a nanny raise your kids.” Especially in New York, nannies (and often maids) are the grease that make the wheels turn, making it possible to balance a high-powered career and a family. Without them, fathers would actually have to (gasp) take personal days or even flex time (oh the horror) and have to generally give a crap about contributing to their own domestic bliss.

Do we really want to make it harder on these families to contract the help they need?

The answer should be “yes.” But if the system is set up so that most domestic workers won’t even be able to take advantage of these benefits, then what is the point? The Nanny Law doesn’t read like unnecessary regulation; it just might be a little bit useless.

For Nannies, Hope for Workplace Protection [New York Times]
The Catch 22 of New York’s nanny law [True/Slant]

Earlier: InsideCounsel’s Transformative Leadership Awards: Women Lawyers to Watch

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