An au pair who worked in Middlesex County is seeking at least $10 million for herself and roughly 500 other au pairs in a suit against the California concern that brought them to Massachusetts, now that a federal court has upheld the legality of a Massachusetts law that requires au pairs earn at least the state minimum wage.
Silvia Juliana Forero Muñoz initially filed her suit on Jan. 9 in Middlesex Superior Court, but the agency, AuPairCare of San Francisco, this week had the case moved to federal court in Boston, because of the size of the demand and potential class and because Forero Muñoz are in different states.
Last month, a federal appeals court in Boston upheld a determination by the state Attorney General's office that au pairs have to be paid at least the state minimum wage, which went to $12.75 an hour on Jan. 1, rather than the $7.25 an hour set by the federal program under which American families can hire foreign au pairs. The state regulation also requires sleep and even meal time to be included as hours in many cases.
The federal regulations let families discount that $7.25 by 40% to pay for the room and board they provide, according to the suit.
in her suit, Forero Muñoz argues the company should have known the jig was up and started requiring families to pay au pairs more long ago, because the Massachusetts law went into effect in 2015 - even if it was tied up in court until last month - and because the company and its competitors last year agreed to pay a total of $65 million to settle a similar lawsuit in Colorado.
Despite knowing for years that au pairs in Massachusetts were required to be paid Massachusetts wages, APC repeatedly told au pairs that they were only entitled to be paid, and host families they were only required to pay, the minimum federal stipend of $195.75 per week. APC never paid its au pairs the required Massachusetts wages. Defendants were at all times the au pairs' employer and Defendants are responsible for the au pairs' unpaid wages.
In addition to back pay, the suit demands treble damages, interest and attorney's fees.
Complete complaint (2.1M PDF).