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Not long ago, Nancy Beland wrote a great article about the risks that families take when they hire caregivers “privately”, meaning that the families either hire the caregivers themselves or else use a non-employer home care company. Although she has withheld the names of the parties involved, she tells the story of a family that may have to pay one such privately hired caregiver $80,000:
“Caregiver, Suzy Q., was hired by Mrs. Naive Person to take care of her ailing husband. Suzy Q worked for them for a few months as an “under ground” employee. Mrs. Naive Person paid her an hourly wage, “under the table”, and nothing more. When the ailing husband passed away, Suzy Q decided that she hadn’t been treated as a proper “employee”. She’d not be allowed to file for Unemployment, she wasn’t paid any benefits, she wasn’t covered for workman’s comp. or social security, or taxes, and she wasn’t given her proper breaks per the EDD Labor Laws. So, Suzy Q has called a lawyer who has taken on the case and is prosecuting Mrs., now widowed, Naive Person for $80,000.!!!”
When caregiving services are provided by a non-employer caregiving agency, the worker may be the client’s employee or an independent contractor depending on the relationship the client has with the worker. If the client directs and controls the manner and means by which the domestic worker performs his or her work the client may have employer responsibilities, including employment taxes and workers’ compensation, under state and federal law.
The simplest way to avoid this risk is to work with full-service employer-model home care companies who will take responsibility for the personal attendants that they send you and shield you from this sort of risk. For a list of the most important questions to ask home care companies in order to avoid this risk and others, read our suggestions at: What are the MOST important questions to ask home care companies?
Nancy Beland is an elder care consultant and the author of A Pathway to Senior Care in San Diego: Resource Guide for Adult Children and Caregivers to Seniors