Au pairs settle for $65.5 million in wages lawsuit
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A group of nearly 10,000 people who worked as au pairs for American families over the last decade will share a $65.5 million settlement after the group won its lawsuit claiming that companies that bring the workers to the U.S. conspired to keep wages low.

A dozen former au pairs accused 15 companies authorized to bring au pairs to the U.S. of colluding to keep their wages low, The Associated Press reported Wednesday. 

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According to the AP, about 100,000 au pairs, most of whom are women, are entitled to payment under the proposed settlement, which was filed in Denver federal court. The settlement, which still requires a judge's approval, came one month before the case was set to go to trial, the AP noted.

Under the reported settlement, foreigners who came to the U.S. on J-1 visas between Jan. 1, 2009, and Oct. 28, 2018 will have access to the funds via a special website being set up by attorneys to help spread word about the settlement.

The 15 companies named in the suit denied any wrongdoing, but pledged to inform au pairs about their legal rights in the future.

“This settlement, the hard-fought victory of our clients who fought for years on behalf of about 100,000 fellow au pairs, will be perhaps the largest settlement ever on behalf of minimum wage workers and will finally give au pairs the opportunity to seek higher wages and better working conditions,” said David Seligman, whose group, Towards Justice, filed the suit in 2014.

According to the suit, families were told to take 40 percent of au pairs' pay to cover the room and board they are required to provide for au pairs. The practice was challenged by the lawsuit.

One au pair told the AP that she saw an ad for the State Department-sponsored program as a college student in Mexico. Sarah Azuela told the outlet that the working conditions felt like slavery.

“I don’t wish anyone to experience anything like this,” Azuela told the AP. She added that she had been subjected to threats of violence during her time in the program.

More than 20,000 foreign workers participated in the U.S. au pair program last year, according to State Department figures.

The AP noted that the State Department said in a court filing in September that federal law requires that au pairs are paid minimum wage. According to the filing, the department argued that federal law determines when other international guest workers can earn higher wages.