An elderly homeowner is slaughtered by her gardener, who steals her money. A nanny sues her former employer and wins $44,880 in back pay. A domestic employee files a $5 million sexual harassment suit against his employer.
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These are some of the horror stories collected by Teresa Leigh, whose business, Teresa Leigh Household Risk Management, operates from Raleigh, N.C.
Leigh points out that risk management for high-net-worth clients goes well beyond managing their money. Some of the most dangerous things happen to them at the hands of household employees rather than mutual fund managers.
Leigh’s firm began collecting data on household risk in 2006 and continues to do so. “Today’s families unknowingly face a host of high risk situations through poor hiring and management practices when employing domestic staff,” she says. They include identity theft, costly lawsuits and intimate exposure to violent criminals, psychopaths and pedophiles.
The environment for a domestic worker seeking legal support is changing rapidly, she says. Progressive grass roots organizations provide pro bono legal advice for domestic workers, even those without documentation.
“Today’s economy can force homeowners to hire domestic workers on the fly or by word of mouth,” she said. Or they may hire a domestic staffing agency, assuming the agency will do the proper background checks.
“Agencies do not obtain background investigations on job candidates prior to introduction to a potential employer,” Leigh says.
The problem is made worse by the explosion of these agencies in the last 10 years. In 2000, there were an estimated 8 major staffing agencies specializing in household domestic staff, Leigh said. “Today there are over a hundred, many of them bogus.” These agencies “place ads claiming they can find the perfect employee and request personal information, household address, children’s names and a credit card number.”
Leigh suggests that high-net-worth households hire a professional firm to do a background investigation before they meet a job candidate. She provides additional tips for making a household secure. www.teresaleigh.com