Mandatory Breaks for Babysitters

August 31st, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  7 Comments

From Radley Balko, a man whose libertarianism is pure enough that I do believe his ideal world might mirror the anarchic hellhole that Snake Pliskin had to blast his way through, made a very good point today on the Twitters: California’s assembly just passed a lunatic bill that is the kind of thing that would make all of us libertarians if we think about it too hard.

The topic: babysitters’ rights.

I am obviously a partisan here. A large portion of my paycheck goes to paying our nanny/babysitter, and my wallet and conscience are in constant conflict. Ultimately, I think, conscience won: we play more than twice minimum wage, guarantee minimum weekly salary, with four weeks paid vacation and unlimited sick days. So I don’t believe I’m some sort of bastard sending our babysitter underpaid into the salt mines of childcare.

However, Assembly Bill 889 makes me seem like one. I love Tom Ammiano, the oft-heroic Supervisor from my former town of San Francisco, but he’s gotten into something weird here. To wit:

Under AB 889, household “employers” (aka “parents”) who hire a babysitter on a Friday night will be legally obligated to pay at least minimum wage to any sitter over the age of 18 (unless it is a family member), provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks, in addition to workers’ compensation coverage, overtime pay, and a meticulously calculated timecard/paycheck.

I actually agree with about half of this. Minimum wage? Hell yes. Overtime? Sure. Keeping good records on a timecard is probably also a good idea. But worker’s comp? Do any of us have worker’s comp? Can we throw in a couple extra bucks an hour for that and health coverage? That’s probably a cop out, I know, but involving the state of California’s worker’s comp system in your childcare arrangement sounds like an invitation to bureaucratic trouble.

But the real clear crazy here is the mandatory breaks, the idea that you need to hire a babysitter to cover for your babysitter every two hours so that first babysitter can have a break/meal. Will you need to a hire a third babysitter to cover the second babysitter’s five-minute breaks? Has anyone who voted for (and passed!) this bill in the assembly actually tried to find a babysitter for a Friday night? How the hell are you supposed to find not just one, but a second one who will come in and work for 15 minutes every two hours.

I know it’s hard work taking care of someone else’s miscreants. I can barely take care of my own, and I happen to really dig them. But babysitters, as I know them, are not short of breaks. They set kids in front of Rio and bliss out on their phones. They drag them to faroff playgrounds for playdates with children who are way too old or way too young because the babysitters of those kids are their buddies. They text constantly. They are geniuses at carving out time for themselves.

Back to the good parts: I applaud elected officials for looking out for a working class constituency that doesn’t exactly have a powerful lobby. But the problem with labor reform in this country is that sometimes when pass an ambitious Swede-style package of rights, you’re squeezing an employer (in this case, a parent) who is already squeezed by the shitty economy themselves. It’s hard to give an employee far more protections and things like mandatory breaks when the employer has none of that either.

Classic race to the bottom, I know. We all stab each other in the back on the working end of the spectrum, and Goldman Sachs gets to roll in bathtubs of money. But this ain’t the solution.


  1. Sitter Pals says:

    August 31st, 2011at 11:41 am(#)

    As the founder and owner of a social network for parents and trusted sitters, I agree with you on the breaks issue.

    Most sitters want to earn good money accepting babysitting jobs. That means these jobs are more than 2 hours (min is usually 4 hours). If we went by the every 2 hour break rule, then fewer parents would hire babysitters beyond 2 hours – nobody wins.

    Babysitting is a fun and rewarding job for those who seek that as employment. They enjoy caring for kids and all that includes – playing, reading, helping with meals and clean up, and even nap and bed time (aka breaks).

  2. Mary says:

    August 31st, 2011at 12:30 pm(#)

    This is all about money and has nothing to do with babysitters rights. This is way to tax babysitters. Tax the people who hire them through workmans comp., and since the parents home is now a place of employment instead of a private residence (paying workmans comp. makes this so) it also makes it so that OSHA can come into your home and tell you anything that they think needs corrected. Any parent not following OSHA recommendations can be fined. It’s a way for the govt. to track everything you do.

  3. Kenn W. Kiser says:

    August 31st, 2011at 12:38 pm(#)

    First, I applaud you on your generous treatment of the people you trust to care for your children. It not only shows that you love your kids, but that you are willing to treat others as you would like to be treated… fair and with respect.

    Now, for my complaint with Assembly Bill 889. How long until parents are no longer considered fit to watch their own children for more than 2 hours without a break? If I thought someone wasn’t capable of watching my children for several hours at a time without being relieved by someone, I wouldn’t hire them in the first place. Oh, wait a minute, that means that I, the parent, am making decisions in behalf of my family, and not the government.

  4. Jeff says:

    August 31st, 2011at 1:47 pm(#)

    Sounds like the parents in retardofornia will start paying quite a bit for less care than before, gotta love progressives!!lol
    Beautiful state, too bad about your elected rubber room inhabitants.
    I hope this starts in San Fran. You need to get some of the money out of the uber libs and back into normal working humans hands.

    Have a blessed day.

  5. Pixiestick says:

    August 31st, 2011at 2:35 pm(#)

    Has anyone considered that maybe this has nothing to do with “babysitter’s rights”? With all the rights of someone (in some cases, more) who has a regular job, couldn’t they also make it mandatory to tax babysitters? Babysitters of California, get ready to be taxed. You know it’s coming!

  6. David Melnick says:

    September 1st, 2011at 5:08 am(#)

    in the ’70s , there were real good ones, now it’s as politically correct as one can get.

  7. esa says:

    September 1st, 2011at 3:56 pm(#)

    I think Pixiestick nailed it. Another underhanded way of introducing objectionable legislation which would be soundly rejected if they went about it in a straightforward way. The scariest thing is that it’s probably some kind of preparation for something even more heinous.

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