tips for parents


Is Your Employment Agreement With Your Nanny Illegal?

If you employ a person or are a person that performs domestic jobs within a household such as housekeeping, cleaning, childcare, cooking, home management, elder care, or other services of a domestic nature, you are likely affected by the passing of the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. This newly passed law applies to domestic workers regardless of their immigration status and is enforced by the Attorney General’s office.

This law does not apply to the following individuals: (1) individuals that, on average, provide childcare for 16 hours or less per week or those who provide more but on a casual, irregular or intermittent basis (i.e. school vacation, etc.; (2) personal care attendants (PCAs); and (3) staffing agencies, employment agencies, or placement agencies.  This law went into effect on April 1, 2015. A brief overview follows.

First and foremost, an employer must provide a domestic worker with a notice of all state and federal laws that apply to domestic workers.  If you do not have a written employment agreement with your employee you should enter into one immediately.  The new law requires employers to maintain payroll records and other documentation regarding the time worked, overtime, breaks, other time off, other types of compensation, reimbursement, etc.  You must also provide and retain documentation regarding personal days, sick days, vacation days, transportation, health insurance, pay raises, severance, termination, etc.  Please consult an employment attorney to assist you in ensuring that you are complying with the numerous requirements of this law.  Remember, much of this statute is strict liability.  In other words, it does not matter if the violation is accidental or the result of an error or mistake especially in regard to maintaining records.

The law further requires that domestic workers earn at least the minimum wage of $9.00 per hour, which will increase to $10.00 per hour next year.  Domestic workers also must be given specific periods of rest time depending on how many hours they work.  Whether rest time will be paid or not should be part of the employment agreement, which needs to be in writing. Domestic workers are also entitled to overtime pay for work over 40 hours per week.  The only deductions an employer is permitted to take are those permitted by law (i.e. taxes, health insurance, etc.)  The employer can take additional deductions such as meals and beverages if it is agreed upon by the employee and is in writing.  Although, the amount and circumstances permitting the deductions have limitations and restrictions.  Lodging can only be deducted under certain circumstances.

The following issues, in particular, are not ones that most employers of domestic workers would be aware of or accustomed to.  For instance, an employer may now be responsible for unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance, sick time, paid leave, parental leave, and other leave.  Employers of domestic workers must also provide their employees with reasonable access to a phone and internet. An employer must also protect the privacy of his/her domestic worker(s).  As an employer you cannot discriminate or retaliate against an employee for complaining or making complaints to agencies or authorities regarding discrimination and labor laws.  Lastly, if you employ a domestic worker that resides in your home or for whom you provide lodging and you terminate said employee without cause, said employee is entitled to written notice, 30 days of lodging, and/or severance pay.

Please contact us at info@cascanettlaw.com to ensure your employment agreement covers all aspects of the domestic worker law, that you are maintaining proper documentation and records, and to obtain all necessary information to prevent your unintentional violation of this law.  If you are a domestic worker and feel that your rights have been violated, contact us at info@cascanettlaw.com to understand your rights.

A Non-Custodial Parent’s Guide to Child Support

A non-custodial parent is a parent whose children do not live with him/her the majority of the time. In other words, your children live with the other parent or some other guardian more often than they live with you. In Massachusetts, both parents are financially responsible for their children’s support. As a result, the non-custodial parent usually must pay child support for their children, which is used for housing, education, food, clothing, child care costs, medical needs, etc.

Child support is generally determined by the combined income available to both parents. To get an idea as to what your child support payment would be you can access the child support guideline worksheet that can be found at http://www.mass.gov/courts/forms. Simply input child support guidelines worksheet in the word search box. It is easier to input the income information into the document than to complete it on your own, as it will automatically calculate the amount of support you will likely be responsible to pay.

A Court can order you to pay more or less than the child support you would be responsible for according to the Child Support Guidelines. However, if the Court is going to diverge from the guidelines it must file a form entitled Child Support Findings for Deviation from Guidelines. This will include the reasons for the deviations.

If there is a Court Order for child support or an agreement for child support that a Court has accepted (a Judgment) it can only be changed by the Court. You are responsible for the ordered amount of child support until it is changed by the Court. Once a Court Order for child support is in place, your payments will be made through the Department of Revenue (DOR). Most courts have an office on the premises. Make sure to keep the DOR apprised of changes in address, employment, income, etc. In order to change your child support payment there must be a change in circumstance. An example of a changed circumstance would be an increase or decrease in one parent’s income. Another likely cause for change is a change of one parent’s income due to unemployment, disability or other acceptable reason. Sometimes, the DOR can assist you in assessing whether you are likely entitled to a change in child support or with assistance in seeking a modification.

If you have questions about child custody, child support, or need assistance with modifying your child support, contact a family lawyer at info@cascanettlaw.com.

How Can I Make Sure My Child’s School Protects Against Bullying?

To know whether your child’s school has an adequate bullying prevention policy in place, you must first ensure that you are maintaining a dialogue with your child. No parent should rely on a school to ensure their child is not being bullied. Most children, especially those that are being bullied, don’t like to talk about it. You can start the dialogue by asking some simple questions such as:

  • Do you ever see anyone get bullied at school?
  • What happens when you see someone getting bullied? (Do other students or adults step in? Does it get reported?)
  • What does your school teach you to do when you are bullied or see someone bullied?
  • Have you ever been bullied?

The Importance of Parental Involvement

Asking your child questions about bullying at their school can help you assess how active their school is regarding bullying.  A school that has a multifaceted and effective bullying program in place will allow your child to respond to these questions… except for the last question, as children generally don’t like to admit when they are being bullied.  This is why it is important, as a parent, to remain involved in your child’s day to day life at school by asking questions (i.e. Tell me something good that happened? Tell me something you didn’t like? What was the best part of your day?  What was the worst? What was the funniest thing that happened? Etc.)

When to Review the Student Handbook

If your child can tell you about the school’s bullying program than your child’s school likely has a good bullying prevention program.  If your child cannot then you should look to your school’s student handbook for its policy regarding bullying. The student handbook should have a policy regarding bullying in place.  Most schools also have a code of conduct that addresses proper behavior and defines bullying, which, in turn, assists in the prevention of bullying.  Schools that are the most effective at preventing, handling and stopping bullying have a multi-faceted approach that have community wide involvement. If your child cannot discuss the school’s bullying program then your child’s school can be doing more to address bullying.  To prevent bullying a school requires the assistance of its teachers and staff as well as its students and parents.  Become active in your child’s school and contact your school’s PTO/PTA/PTG and request bullying being placed on the agenda for the next meeting.

If Your Child is Being Bullied…

If your child is being bullied, stay on top of it.  Make sure your child’s school is also following up. A “let’s wait and see” approach is never acceptable. If you feel the school is not responding to the needs of your child contact the teacher, the principal, the superintendent and the school board, so your message is heard loud and clear.  This also takes the issue out of the hands of the school’s teacher and/or administrator if they are not actively working to protect your child. Contact the PTO/PTA/PTG and other students’ parents to see if they will assist too.

It is never advised to confront the bully directly, as this may cause the bully to retaliate further against your child.  It is also never advised to confront the bully’s parent(s) directly either. It is best to go through the school or a neutral party such as a teacher, coach, counselor, administrator, etc. as often bullies do not have good parental oversight and/or involvement at home.

If you and your child are not getting the support you need to prevent or stop bullying at school, contact an education lawyer at info@cascanettlaw.com for further assistance.

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