California’s Nanny State Nanny Law

The California Assembly, faced with such difficult tasks as prison overcrowding, the second-highest unemployment rate in the nation, one of the worst business climates in the nation, and a broken education financing policy (article forthcoming), apparently has prioritized the issue of overworked babysitters, courtesy of a bill introduced by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).  From the OC Register:

A bill pending in the state Senate would require breaks for that babysitter. These include a 10-minute break for every two hours worked and a 30-minute meal break after five hours on the job.

. . . .

The bill, called the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights Act, would require that people who hire domestic workers not only pay them minimum wage (currently $8 an hour), but also pay overtime and provide workers’ compensation. Employers would also have to keep time records and issue paychecks.

At one point there was a provision for paid vacation time for full-time employees, but that has been scrapped.

AB 889, dubbed the Babysitter’s Bill, is supposed to close loopholes in the state’s current labor laws. Under existing law, people hiring domestic workers are exempted from the requirement to provide workers’ compensation if their employees do not work full-time. This new law would remove the exemption.

The Assembly already passed the bill and is expected to easily win approval in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Senator Doug LaMalfa reacts, and Adam Summers at Reason Foundation rounds out some of the remaining common sense objections.  Here are some of the most vexing concerns after reading the text of the bill

  • Parents will have to hire two babysitters in order that each can receive 10-minute breaks every two hours and a 30-minute lunch every five hours, as required by law.
  • Parents will have to pay each babysitter the state minimum wage, currently $8 per hour, plus overtime.
  • Parents must provide worker’s compensation insurance.
  • Parents will need to provide detailed paystubs including “an accurate itemized statement in writing showing (1) gross wages earned, (2) total hours worked by the employee…, (3) the number of piece-rate units earned and any applicable piece rate if the employee is paid on a piece-rate basis, (4) all deductions …, (5) net wages earned, (6) the inclusive dates of the period for which the employee is paid, (7) the name of the employee and his or her social security number …, (8) the name and address of the legal entity that is the employer, and (9) all applicable hourly rates in effect during the pay period and the corresponding number of hours worked at each hourly rate by the employee.”  This statement must list all deductions, which “shall be recorded in ink or other indelible form, properly dated, showing the month, day, and year, and a copy of the statement or a record of the deductions shall be kept on file by the employer for at least three years at the place of employment or at a central location within the State of California.”  Parents likely will be forced to consult professional tax and/or legal services concerning the complete and accurate reporting of “all deductions,” how to prepare the statement in the proper format, and what a “piece-rate unit” is.
  • Parents who “knowingly and intentionally” fail to comply with any of the above will be liable for attorneys’ fees and costs, plus a minimum $50 for the first violation and $100 for each subsequent violation.
  • Parents who fail to respond within 21 days to a demand to inspect any of the information above are subject to a $750 fine.
  • Live-in nannies must be given eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night; there is a rebuttable presumption the nanny did not receive the amount of sleep required by law.
  • Live-in nannies must be given 12 consecutive hours of free time each day (including eight for uninterrupted sleep, above).
  • Parents must give babysitters written notice of the provisions of Labor Code 3550, making the notice available in both English and Spanish.

Those are just the highlights.

The new law means dollar signs to established nanny service providers.  Such providers will be better able to absorb the administrative and legal costs of developing workplace policies and accounting guidelines, preparing legal and accounting forms, and drafting standard agreements in order to allay parents’ fears about compliance with their myriad legal obligations just to hire a babysitter.  This is likely why the CEO of, Steve Lampert, has admonished parents to “calm down” and “Don’t get upset about it.  Don’t get hysterical about it.  You’ll be able to work it out very well with your caregiver.”  Mr. Lampert offers no explanation why parents shouldn’t worry, of course.  That’s what the new law will force parents to pay him for.

On the bright side, the bill only applies to babysitters 18 years of age or older, and does not apply to family members.  Moreover, the bill apparently is primarily directed at caregivers for the disabled and elderly; parents who rely on babysitters are just collateral damage.  To that extent, however, mom Jeanne Sager is concerned:

Not only do you have to do the impossible of tracking down a responsible college kid to hang with your tot on a Friday night so you can actually sit down for one meal where you don’t have to cut up someone else’s food. Now you have to find TWO of them. And the second one will have to agree to just show up every two hours for 15 minutes at minimum wage. AND you’re going to have to explain to your 3-year-old why Miss Madison has to get up from the rousing game of SpongeBob Memory to go outside and take a break while this other guy comes in … for 15 minutes.

This sort of “nanny” law is nothing new.  In a previous thread, a commenter shared a story about new regulations requiring that goat herders be provided “separate sleeping unit[s]” and “a comfortable bed” (whatever that means), and that wall surfaces in cooking areas be made of “easy-to-clean material” (whatever that means).  I have little doubt Jesse Ewiak’s indignant response to that story will be the template liberal response to AB 889: “Shockingly, yes, even goat herders [and babysitters] should be treated well where they work. And the government has the power to make the owners of goat ranches [and parents of small children] comply.”  I’m willing to stipulate that goat herders and babysitters “should be treated well where they work” (again, whatever that means).  But this is not the relevant question in political governance.  The relevant question is, when should the law enforce these normative duties?  Typically, that question is answered something along the lines of:  “When there is a demonstrated pattern of abuse.”  Is there such a pattern when it comes to goat herding?  I had not seen evidence of it.  Nor, apparently, had Mr. Ewiak, though that did not stop him from defending the new regulations.  But why should anyone do so in absence of that crucial evidence?  This lack of evidence is why I was confused at the urgency to whip up new goat herding rules, and even more confused at anyone’s willingness to defend those rules.

I would be similarly curious to know why anyone unequipped with evidence of a pattern of abuse against babysitters would volunteer to defend AB 889.

[Cross-posted at the main page]

Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at


  1. Ace, Kowal. I demur on the goat-herder thing, for specific, not sentimental reasons. I do think they exploit the immigrants, legal, in this case. Dunno if they were exploited, but it didn’t sound unreasonable. If you can’t exploit a goatherder out in the outback, you can’t exploit anyone.

    But babysitters, as paid substitute parents, do not get a break. What, the baby drowned in bathtub while I was having a smoke and that was his lookout, not mine?

    Our state of California has disconnected from reality. And there is nothing we can do to save it. I voted for Jerry Brown over the idiot Republican, fer crissakes, and frankly, it was one of the best votes I ever cast.

    Governor Moonbeam is all that stands between us and the abyss, and that’s the fact, Jack.

    [I’ve always been a Moonbeam fan, BTW, even back in my most righty-ist days. The dude has a righteous spark. But that’s another story.]

    • Sometimes Moonbeam seems inspired. His judicial appointments are sickening, though. And he tanked on the prison guards union.

    • He was a first-rate hands-on mayor of Oakland. Unfortunately, that involved changing the city government from strong-city-manager to strong-mayor, and his successor was the waste of space Ron Dellums.

  2. The purpose of this law is a back-door crackdown on “babysitting collectives”, where an unemployed woman will be paid cash-in-hand to run a de facto day-care center. They get around the regulations on day-cares by pretending that it’s all just personal relationships; like these twelve women just happened to meet, and through the grace of God become good friends, and–how convenient!–one of them has spare time and plenty of room and it’s just so nice of her to “watch” the kids for us…

  3. This is what happens when too many far leftwing extremists congregate in one place!Seriously people do you not know you are the laughingstock of the whole country?I think maybe there are a couple thousand too many pot shops per capita in cali wakeup,drink some coffee.

  4. Obviously this was written by people who have no experience with being a responsible parent/caregiver in today’s work environment.

    1- It will drive ‘nannies/babysitting’ even more underground than it already is. Thus depriving the state of revenue. Also allowing more child endangering and unreported abuse. Who is going to turn in the bad baby sitter and thus themselves for fines and punishment?

    2- Families who depend on inexpensive baby sitting to have a second job, go to college, or have a night on the town will simply stop. Decrease college enrollment, decreased household income, decreased discretionary spending (70% of our GDP). Anybody else thinking economy yet?

    3- With lost income, baby sitters will cut their spending. Households forced out of a second income will cut spending. Colleges with decreased enrollment will raise fees. Businesses who lose business will cease to exist, increase prices, or cut employment. Increased unemployment.

    All of this is just ‘collateral damage’ because the person I hire to responsibly care for someone that I care for non-stop needs a smoke break? Way to go Gov’t! Just another reason you guys need a pay cut!

    • Remember that we’re talking about an administration that considered it entirely desirable to drive Amazon out of the state pour encourager les autres.

  5. Honestly, the government has no business stepping into what is deemed as private contract work between a babysitter/ and whom they are working for (parents and etc). Lasse Fair- government keep out. Payments are to be up to the babysitter setting their own fees. We don’t know what the family is making as far as their own wages. Financial payment solutions need to be of a private matter between the family and babysitter/nanny. Sorry to burst bubbles. In fact I find this to be an infringement and unconstitutional/against the law.

  6. We here at try not to get entangled in political debates of the day. However, the State of California is considering passing legislation that affects childcare providers, and we think the bill merits our (and your) attention.
    Under AB 889, household employers (i.e., parents) who hire a babysitter would be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless the sitter is a family member); provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks; and provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage, overtime pay, and a precise timecard and paycheck.
    We support the minimum wage provision of this legislative bill. Many families are already paying at least that much . . . even without the legislation.
    The provision of rest and meal breaks (and the resultant substitute caregivers) sounds good. Surely all employees should have rest and meal breaks. However, it is impractical if not utterly unworkable in the context of a babysitter’s work. Are parents supposed to come home from their own job every two hours to spell off the baby sitter? In the alternative, if parents were to hire a substitute caregiver, what babysitter would accept a job in which s/he works only a few minutes every two hours? This provision of AB889 would virtually bring legal employment of babysitters to a screeching halt in California.
    We do not support the workers’ compensation insurance coverage provision of this legislative bill. Anecdotally, it would appear that babysitters do not have a high incidence of “workplace” injuries that would be OSHA-recordable. For minor scrapes, etc., bandages and antibiotic cream usually address the issue. On those…

  7. As a babysitter I think that this law should happen. I work my butt off babysitting and I’m lucky to make $3.00 an hour and I’m not talking working 8hrs a day, I work somedays up to 16hrs for a measly $40 a day, its not enough to live on and the only reason I keep the job is beacause of the economy I have had no luck finding a real job since I lost my job back in 09.

    • I can certainly imagine scenarios in which a lone babysitter has to tend to several very little ones requiring constant attention for 8 hours or more at a stretch. But I think we can also all imagine scenarios in which a babysitter is hired simply to periodically check on a child who is basically good on his own and needs an adult mostly just to reach the buttons on the microwave to heat up his mac ‘n cheese dinner. Point being, flexibility is needed in this arena, and that’s just what laws like this eradicate.

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  9. Dear Diplomats, Parents, Libertarians, Nannies and the ilk of Politicians,

    I read this article regarding Nanny State laws and myself have been a Nanny both Live-In and Live-Out, and am one of the minority percentages of being a U.S. born Citizen, over the age of 25, college educated and worked for CA Non-profits for Child-Care as well, and believe this issue although, not the same is parallel to the Obama Health Care debate for Universal Health Care…

    We Must Have Specific, High Quality, fair and legal ramifications for support of our Child-Care providers meaning, babysitters, Nannies, especially Live-IN. We so easily get abused by living in the homes of our employers, therefore, even if our wages are being taxed by law, we are constantly being taken advantage of in big and often consistently small ways, even for the nicer families, let alone the majority of asshole families, where the parents or “mother” does Not even Work outside the home, but, still requires a Live-In Nanny to oversee, watch, and take care of the children, let alone be abused to do a full range of other household duties that are absurd, even if they have a full staff to do housekeeping, cooking, gardening, house managing etc.

    There is no time for Live-in Nannies especially in places in CA, such as L.A.:Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, to literally take a bathroom break, sit down and eat a meal or leave the typical gated, super on lock down compound of the typical “Live-IN Nanny” positions that desperately need safeguards from idiot employers, ridiculous house managers, and airhead personal assistants that can’t wait to yield their already demeaned power from the “kick the dog” effects and all this does in the end is make for a terribly stressed out Child-Care professional that must keep their employers happy, because there is no getting away from them at any point, let alone privacy, because they do in fact live in the same home.

    So listen, to all these parents, & or individuals crying and accusing others about having to find 2 separate babysitters and or Child-Care providers, boohhooh, if you didn’t want the responsibilities of helping to raise your own kids, let alone help find people to watch them, and to treat them, like you might want to be treated with decency and respect, let alone, look out for the emotional and physical well being, which directly translates to how they will raise your children… Complain till the cows come home indeed, otherwise do what any responsible parent, individual and professional should and often does, find good, alternates, and work it the hell out..

    If you can’t competently do that, then perhaps you should have thought about all of this, before you decided to have 3 kids and hire that first babysitter/Live-in Nanny.

    Sincerely, Susanne Berlanger

    Nanny for the Stars of CA

    • I’d be happy to respond if you addressed the points in the post. If I understand your position, it is, in effect, tough luck to those parents who need part time baby sitters. Your exact words are, in fact, “work it the hell out.” There’s little point in arguing further if that’s the position you’ve taken.

      If you’d like to directly respond to the particulars of the post, I’d be happy to engage.

      • Isn’t one of the main points here that these sorts of stringent regulations make it hard to “work things out”? It’s a less regulated environment that allows an employee to ask “Hey, can I take tomorrow off and make it up a week from Saturday?” and government regulation to say “If you do that, the Saturday will be time-and-a-half because it’ll put you over 40 hours, even though you only worked 32 this week…”

        Sometimes such requirements are necessary (I support maximum hours, for instance, though I wish we have flex-time with it), but “work something out” seems to be the exact wrong thing to say here.

  10. Much of this legislation wouldn’t be necessary if employer families just stopped to consider the needs of the person they’ve hired to help them.
    Most nannies simply want to sit and take a break when their charges take a nap or watch a movie, while greedy parents would have them doing household chores that are not part of their job descriptions.
    Nannies are typically underpaid, can’t afford to live on their own, aren’t provided with any health care or pension options, and do it for the love of children, a sheer calling, not for the meager scraps their employers provide.
    If all families cared for their nannies half as well as their nannies cared for their children, there would be no need for this law. It’s sad that it doesn’t occur to people to make sure nanny can make a living, get off her feet a few times a day, have access to health care, and be actively contributing to their eventual retirement.
    Shame on families that don’t do the right thing WITHOUT big brother stepping in to oversee.

  11. i strated working as a live in for a family (in CA) a few days ago. they never had a nanny before, i never did it before and i dont know anyone who does or did, so this is kinda new for both of us. i feel like this past week has been way over my head. other than taking care of the kids, taking them to school, tidying up after them, etc., im required to: cook for the family, clean the kitchen, do the dishes, sweep the floor twice a day, vacuum, scrub the counters, clean the bathroom, do and fold laundries everyday, and anything else that is on their mind that theyd like me to do instead of doing it themselves. they are a very sweet family, but i just feel like they assume having me around all the time as i am a live-in nanny means i should always be available for the kids at any hour, as well as doing many household tasks (pretty much like a made). i get paid 300$ a week. i work everyday all day, i dont have hours. i just get tasks and have to do them. so i could go from 6am to 9pm or even after. (i calculated the hours of the first 7 days, yes i worked 7 days straight, and i got to approximately 70 hours, not including the time the kids were asleep and i was home alone with them). id like to know what my rights are if anyone could tell me please. i feel like this week has been too much for me.

    • Sheera, thanks for your comment. I’m curious, and I don’t mean this to be argumentative in any way, have you shared these concerns with the family? It sounds like you didn’t contemplate having to work 7 days a week when you first agreed to $300 per week. How did it happen that you began working far more hours than originally expected without a proportionate increase in your compensation?

      What seems to be common in these situations is that a nanny will form a close bond with the children which effectively erodes her “bargaining power” with the parents — she feels it is vulgar to ask for more money to look after children she genuinely cares for. I can appreciate that. But it sounds like this is not quite your case, since you mentioned you only started working a few days ago. So I’m curious to know how expectations got so out of whack so quickly.

      Thanks again, and best of luck.

      • I think there are a few reasons for that. When we first met before I started I did tell them I should be working 40hrs\w and if I do more it should be considered overtime. As I mentioned before, neither of us knew what being a live-in nanny really means, so I said I’d expect 480$\w, but they said people they know pay about 250-300\w, and they will do 300$, and I agreed. When I started, naturally, they wanted to see how I am with the kids, so they would leave me alone with them for a while, and when I wasn’t with the kids I was expected to do some household chores. I’m guessing they assume its like living at home, for every mother would expect her children to help around, but this is not MY life, its still a job for me. And all of a sudden the hours were gone, they were just figuring out how to get me into the daily schedule and the kids routine, and as I said when I’m not with the kids I have many other tasks. I told them we should sit down on saturday and write a contract, that this should be by-the-hour job, and that this week has been crazy for me. We will do it saturday, but they said they can’t do it by the hour, which means they’re not willing to pay more. Right now I’m looking for live-in nanny rights and job description, because obviously the family doesn’t know how it should be, and I don’t want them to feel like I’m taking advantage of them by limiting the hours I’m willing to work and the tasks I’m willing to do, but right now for sure I feel like I’m being taken advantage of (not intentionally of course) and if I may add maybe even a little enslaved, because sometimes they have me do what needs to be done so that they can rest. I don’t want to hurt their feelings and I don’t want to feel bitter so if anyone could tell me what are all my rights by law.

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