About 10,000 live-in child care workers from around the world will share in a class-action settlement in a case that challenged whether they should be treated as employees entitled to minimum wage or members of the family learning about the US while helping out at home. US District Judge Christine Arguello gave final approval to the $65.5 million deal Thursday in Denver, the AP reports, saying payments to au pairs who filed claims by the May deadline would average $3,500 each. About 160,000 au pairs who came to the US to work from 2009 to late 2018 under J-1 visas were identified as having the potential to receive money under the deal announced in January. The settlement requires that 15 agencies authorized by the State Department to connect au pairs with families notify both parties going forward that au pairs can negotiate to be paid more than the minimum $195.75 a week required by the department. That pay is based on the federal minimum wage of $7.25 for 45 hours of work minus a 40 percent deduction for room and board.
The lawsuit, brought by 11 au pairs from Colombia, Australia, Germany, South Africa and Mexico, claimed the agencies colluded to keep their wages low, ignoring overtime and state minimum wage laws and treating the federal minimum wage for au pairs as the maximum they could earn. In some cases, the lawsuit said, parents pushed the limits of their duties, requiring au pairs to do things like feed backyard chickens and help families move and not allowing them to eat with the family. The settlement comes amid a movement to protect the rights of domestic workers, who were originally excluded from federal labor protections. A handful of states have passed domestic worker bills of rights, and Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Pramilla Jayapal introduced a federal version this week.
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