The Au Pair cultural exchange program provides U.S. families with low-cost child care, but former au pairs said they were also asked to feed chickens, help families move and do gardening – all while working at below minimum wage. That prompted a judge to grant class-action status to 11 former au pairs last February, and drew the attention of Denver breaking news staffer Colleen Slevin, whose in-depth study of the case paid off with a significant scoop: a major settlement against 15 au pair companies. Up to 100,000 former au pairs who worked in the U.S. since 2009 had a stake in the outcome of the case.
After the initial ruling Slevin spent the next 11 months handling breaking news across three states while learning all about the world of au pairs, federal labor laws and cultural exchange visas while conducting interviews, such as one with a former au pair who said she felt like a slave.
Slevin immersed herself in the world of au pairs while covering breaking news in her region.
She also built a relationship with the attorneys for the au pairs, who alerted her toward the end of last year that a settlement was in the works. She negotiated with them to give her exclusive notice when the $65.5 million settlement was filed last week.
The result was an APNewsBreak on the settlement that went unmatched for hours and received play around the world. The story appeared on the front page of the Seattle Times among other standout play in U.S. members. It also received more than 300 hits on NewsWhip.
For her perseverance in building sources and tracking a story of international interest, all while covering regional breaking news, Slevin wins the week’s Best of the States award.