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Nanny government can hurt more than help

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In the not-too-distant future when you want to hire a baby sitter to watch the kids for a few hours, you might want to first consult a labor lawyer to ensure you’re adhering to the 28 pages of regulations in Assembly Bill 889 and California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order Number 15. Failure to do so could result in thousands of dollars in fines, attorney fees and other legal expenses.

AB 889, sponsored by San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, literally puts the nanny in California’s nanny state. Like much of the legislation coming out of Sacramento, the bill has good intentions that result in bad consequences.

“For decades, domestic work has been excluded from both state and federal labor laws, and worker exploitation in this industry has remained invisible and unmonitored,” said Ammiano. “AB 889 will end that by establishing the same basic protections under the law that many of us take for granted.”

Sounds great, right? The problem is that by escalating costs and filling households with the red tape that has plagued businesses, the legislation could end up hurting the people it’s trying to help by making it too expensive and cumbersome to hire or retain them.

For example, an 18-year-old baby sitter falls under the purview of AB 889. Hiring her would result in being forced to provide workers’ compensation insurance, provide a substitute caregiver every two hours to cover rest and meal breaks and overtime pay, along with a statement of gross wages, hours worked, deductions, net wages, work dates, hourly rates and number of hours worked. A copy of the statement must be kept on file for at least three years.

Failure to comply could cost $50 for the first infraction and $100 per infraction after that up to $4,000. Failure to allow the baby sitter to inspect or copy the records could result in a $750 fine. The baby sitter could also file a lawsuit and be awarded damages, court costs and attorneys’ fees.

That night out with a dinner and a movie could turn out to be quite expensive.

Also hurt will be the people who need assistance in their homes, such as the elderly and disabled, who will be left to fend for themselves or be forced into institutions.

It might be laughable if it weren’t so sad for the domestic workers who will lose their jobs and tragic for the people who depend on them.

KGO (Ch. 7) News interviewed Dolma Tsering, who makes more than $200 per day by being available 24 hours a day, five days a week to care for an elderly man with dementia in his Berkeley home. His care is paid for by his family. Under AB 889, they would be forced to pay overtime, more than doubling the expense, and likely resulting in the man being placed in a nursing home while Tsering joins the unemployed.

Everybody loses — except the legislators who congratulate themselves for their compassion and move onto the next destructive bill.