Sense & Sensitivity

Finding a Nanny Comes With Legal Questions

DEAR HARRIETTE: I need to get a baby sitter for my son. I am going back to work, and he is too young for school.

The other moms I know have hired women who are good at child care but are paid off the books. All these women I’ve met are undocumented, which seems to be the trend here. From wealthy moms to those who are struggling, they all seem to hire in this way.

I’m afraid if I hire someone who is undocumented, I could get in trouble down the line. When I researched the on-the-books nannies, the prices were sky high. I’m not sure what to do. None of my friends have been caught. Do you think that is just the way it is now? -- Find a Nanny, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR FIND A NANNY: It is true that many mothers/families in New York City -- as well as other parts of the country -- employ undocumented workers to care for their children. This is not a new phenomenon; it is part of the ecosystem of the United States’ economy, believe it or not. But that doesn’t make it legal. There are many manual labor jobs, as well as home-care jobs, that are filled each year by people who are trying to get a leg up and pursue the American dream. And many of those people are living in the shadows.

In New York City some public officials have lost their jobs due to hiring undocumented nannies or hiring people for whom they did not pay taxes. It is illegal to hire someone and not contribute payroll taxes to the government.

You should hire a person who is filing with the IRS and paying taxes. There are undocumented workers who are on the road to legal status who do have legal identification and are law-abiding taxpayers. They would be the safest hires within that category, whereas documented immigrants (those with employment visas or green cards) or American citizens are best.

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