I was recently working for a family at their home as a nanny. Part of my responsibility was to do laundry. When they moved into a rental property, the connection that the washing machine hose was supposed to connect to to drain properly was insufficient and the resulting solution I was asked to do was put the hose out of a window and drain the washing machine outside. Firstly, is it legal for her to request this of me? Secondly, if something were to happen where the water was not drained out of the window but rather onto the floor resulting in flooding the garage which contained personal items, can my employer sue me for damages/negligence? The flooding was an accident. I did not sign any contract that held me liable for damages done to her property. Please note that I offered to pull everything out of the garage to help try and dry it out and she said that accidents happen and I didn't need to worry about it. She is holding this over my head as an excuse to pay me late, not pay me in full, and neglect to pay my final check on time.
2 Answers from Attorneys
In California, an employer cannot unilaterally hold an employee responsible for damages caused by negligence on the job (and I am not implying that you were negligent here). An employer also may not pay employees late, refuse to pay them in full, or fail to issue a final check on time as a result of the employees' alleged negligence. Indeed, the failure to issue a final check on time can result in penalties payable to the employee under Labor Code Section 203. Your remedy would be before the Labor Commission or in small claims court.
Best of luck to you.
Yes, they can sue you and it will likely be in the small claims court. As a nanny, my first question would be whether you are actually an employee or not, which as my colleague noted, my help insulate you. That said, I do believe that an employer can get damages in cases of gross negligence. It will likely come down to the facts and a determination of how egregious a mistake was made. You know, it's negligent to drop a crystal vase while cleaning it. It is grossly negligent to use the contents of a gas can to put out a fire.
I think you may want to contact the CA DOL and see if you can get some guidance there. I also think your next best move is to reach out to a CA employment lawyer or call several and get some specific insights so you are best informed about your rights. If they do sue you, again likely in the SCC, make sure you answer the complaint and get some legal advice before responding.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis