They came from around the world to work around the U.S. - including here in Milwaukee. Au pairs were brought in to take care of children and were often required to perform other household tasks such as cooking, cleaning and chauffeuring, among others.
Though they arrived in the U.S. as young foreigners hired to provide inexpensive child care, they have taught Americans a lesson about fair compensation. Fifteen of the State Department-approved companies that recruited au pairs have reached a $65.5 million settlement in a class-action wage-and-hour lawsuit filed by a handful of au pairs.
Approximately 100,000 former au pairs are covered by the settlement, Milwaukee's WUWM reported.
One of the employment law attorneys who represented the au pairs said, "Our argument was that (the recruiters) colluded together to keep their wages well below state and federal minimum wages," adding that prospective au pairs were told that wages were not negotiable.
The reality, however, was quite different from what they were led to believe. "Au pairs have always had the ability to negotiate their salaries under the existing regulations," the lawyer said. "They were being given incorrect information."
According to court documents, recruiting agencies falsely claimed that their maximum weekly wages of $195 for a 45-hour work week were set by the federal government. The $4.35 per hour the au pairs were paid was well below the $7.25 per hour minimum wage.
The director of the advocacy group that helped file the lawsuit said the agreement "will be perhaps the largest settlement ever on behalf of minimum wage workers."
If you and your co-workers have been denied minimum wage or overtime pay, contact the Milwaukee employment law firm of Alan C. Olson and Associates to discuss your legal options.