An agency that facilitates au pair child care arrangements between Massachusetts families and foreign visitors is suspending its operations in Massachusetts, citing a December court ruling that affirmed that families hosting au pairs must comply with state labor laws, including the state’s minimum wage.
EurAupair, a nonprofit organization based in California, informed current and prospective host families Tuesday that it was suspending its program in Massachusetts.
Bill Gustafson, president of EurAupair, confirmed the news with WGBH News by phone on Wednesday.
Gustafson said EurAupair’s programs and mission would conflict with the implications of the December ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit that decided that au pairs fall under the Massachusetts Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which guarantees certain protections, including the state’s minimum wage of $12 an hour.
“We felt that we couldn’t continue with the program in Massachusetts as it's now mandated by the state department,” which oversees au pair agencies, Gustafson said.
Gustafson said his organization’s mission is to facilitate cultural exchanges, not to act as an international employment agency, and that having to enforce compliance with Massachusetts labor standards would conflict with that mission.
The au pairs EurAupair places, who are from European countries as well as countries in Asia, South America and Africa, he said, are not professional child care givers and participate in the program for benefits that go beyond pay for their child care work.
“The idea was that the child care would be a principal part of the program, but also living with the family, sharing their culture, learning the language — things like that,” Gustafson said.
EurAupair had facilitated about 30 au pair arrangements at a time in Massachusetts, Gustafson said. About 20 families currently hosting au pairs will continue the arrangement according to the new guidelines, he said, but his organization will not be facilitating new arrangements in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who defended the state’s enforcement of those labor laws with last year's ruling, says they will protect workers from exploitation, a view shared by domestic worker advocacy groups who cheered the decision.
Some families around Massachusetts have said the decision will force them to pay much more for child care, or to abandon otherwise successful au pair arrangements.