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Expert Au Pair Author Responds to US Au Pair Law Suit

My good friend, Talya Shoup, sent me her response to the breaking story of an au pair who is suing US Au Pair Agency.  Talya Shoup is an author and editor of the popular au pair blog, Best Au Pair Guide, where she dispenses expert advice and top tips for young people who want to become an au pair! 

Edina, the recent news of the German au pair, Amely Mae Conrad, suing her former au pair agency, US Au Pair, and its representative, Helene Young, for fraud, negligence, and sexual harassment is indeed big news.  Of course, it is always best to hear both sides of a story before making a judgment call, but I would say that there are some things in this story that make me doubtful that the au pair agency in question, US Au Pair, is entirely without guilt in this situation.

It appears that the host father in question, who, according to the au pair filing the lawsuit, sexually harassed and assaulted her on more than one occasion. It seems that when she rejected his advances, he became angry an forced her to work more while docking her pay and saying abusive things.

This entire situation is disturbing, as au pairs are in such a vulnerable position. They are living with strangers in a foreign country, without family or the usual support system from home, and they often don't entirely know the new culture or home. Au pairs also tend to be very young, in their late teens or early 20s, making them all the more vulnerable.

If the agency in question is guilty as charged, and the host father did do the things that the au pair claims, then there were some major mistakes made.

Two other au pairs had been forced to leave this same family because of the father's horrid behavior. There should never have been more than one story like this - after one legitimate complaint of something of this nature, the family should not be allowed to host more au pairs. This should have never happened to more than one girl with the same family.

Of course, a trial will reveal more about the case, and hopefully the agency and its representative will be able to speak for themselves. If all that was accused is true, I hope they have excellent attorneys, because there is no reason that au pairs should be subjected to any sort of inappropriate sexual advances from their host families.

And for all au pairs - those working as au pairs and those who are interested in possibly being au pairs - must be cautious and aware of the sort of host parents they are working for. 

Au Pair Safety Tips

I would like to offer the following tips for both prospective au pairs and working au pairs who may find themselves in a similar situation:

  • REPORT INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR:   You must report any sort of behavior that makes you feel threatened and unsafe no matter who is involved - yes, that means your host father!  Call your parents at home and your host agency. 
  • TAKE ACTION:  If the problem is not remedied immediately by your au pair agency, demand to be moved out of the house and be given a new host family. There is too much at stake to remain in an uncomfortable - and possibly unsafe - situation. 
  • USE COMMON SENSE:  Au pairs also need to use common sense. If a potential host dad asks you sexually suggestive questions before you meet them (such as in this case), major red flags should go off.  Host families should have no interest in your private life, and you should not be asked to dress a certain way, do anything outside your defined au pair duties, or be expected to share intimate information. There are plenty of safe, good host families out there needing au pairs, so there is no reason to put yourself at risk by accepting a job with a family who might be questionable.

The main point is to pay attention to any potential warning signs and to stand up for yourself. Always. And if you do find yourself in a situation with a questionable host family and an agency who won't do anything to help you, the police are always there. Better to be safe than sorry in this sort of situation!

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