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Workers Say San Francisco Online Babysitting Startup Stiffs Sitters

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A San Francisco-based startup called Wondersitter that connects parents with babysitters via the Web is under pressure from sitters who say they're not being paid.

Wondersitter operates in 13 cities across the country, functioning as a kind of AirBnB for babysitters; families pay Wondersitter and Wondersitter pays the sitters.

At least, that's the way it's supposed to work.

Michaela Azzopardi has worked for Wondersitter for three years. The twenty-something graduate student says earlier this year, the company started falling behind on its payments.

"May 2nd was my last payment and that was for jobs completed in the beginning of February," Azzopardi told KPIX. Azzopardi says the company now owes her more than $3,300.

She's not alone. Suzanne Holton says Wondersitter owes her $450. "April 3rd is the last time I received payment," Holton said.

On Facebook there's a spreadsheet keeping count of how much sitters claim Wondersitter owes them; so far the total is over $70,000.

Attorney Carole Vigne, director of the Wage Protection Program at Legal Aid at Work, says employees not being paid is a common problem.

"The law is clear that if you're an employee that you're absolutely entitled to a prompt payment of wages and that means being paid — usually twice a month," Vigne said.

She said that last year California enacted additional protections for unpaid workers by allowing them to go after not only the business that failed to pay, but also the owner, officer, directors or managing agent of the company.

KPIX tracked Wondersitter founder Rose Titcomb to an apartment in the Diamond Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. Titcomb wasn't home. Neighbors said she's been gone for awhile.

California's Franchise Tax Board suspended Wondersitter in November 2014. The reason, according to the FTB's Jason Montiel, was "failure to file tax returns and failure to pay an outstanding balance.

California's Labor Commissioner's office says, so far, it has received at least six unpaid wage complaints from Wondersitter workers. It advises non-California residents with unpaid wage claims to contact their own state's Labor Office.

"Generally, the state in which the labor was performed has the greatest interest in applying its labor laws," said Luke Brown of California's Department of Industrial Relations.

Vigne has this advice for babysitters: "Get legal advice, because so often what you think you're owed is a fraction is of what you're entitled to under the law. There are lots of consequences for not being paid your wages."

KPIX attempted to speak to someone at Wondersitter but has not received a reply.

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