Witness to Nanny Abuse: Responding to a Bully

What woudl you do if you were a witness to nanny abuse?

Have you ever worked for an unfair boss, or witnessed someone talking to their employee in a way that made you uncomfortable, angry or scared?

You are not alone. A survey taken by Domestic Workers United found that almost half of working Americans have suffered or witnessed workplace bullying.

Watch the story on ABC's "What Would You Do?" on Tuesday, Feb. 3, at 10 p.m. ET.

ABC's "What Would You Do?" decided to find out how people would react when they saw a nanny mistreated by an abusive employer. "What Would You Do" set up hidden cameras at a popular neighborhood coffee shop, Ozzie's Coffee, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. In the midst of the latte rush hour, a nanny walked in with a little girl to meet up with the girl's mother.

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There was nothing out of the ordinary here, except that the three actors had been hired by ABC as part of a social experiment about abuse of power. After a friendly greeting it became clear that mom wasn't happy with the help.

Our actor playing the tyrant mother noticed a stain on the little girls' shirt. The nanny tells her it was an accident. But the actor portraying the girl's mother wasn't buying it.

"I don't pay you to have her look like this, do I, do I? You know what, I don't want to hear any more excuses from you, you're useless, and a moron. I'm so mad right now I can freaking hit you," she said.

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All of this was within earshot of a room full of unsuspecting regulars.

50 Cents an Hour

What makes this scenario particularly disturbing is that we spoke with nannies around the country who said that this type of treatment is not uncommon and in fact somewhat routine for nannies at the lower end of the pay scale.

Erline Browne has worked as a nanny for more than 15 years and served as a consultant during our shoot. She argued that there is wholesale disrespect for the profession.

"It's looked at, that you're doing this because you can't do anything else. If you could do real work, then you'd be out there doing real work. You're doing this because you're uneducated, you're useless," she told ABC.

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Browne has interviewed hundreds of working nannies as a member of Domestic Workers United, a group in New York State that works to establish fair labor standards for domestic workers.

"There was one lady who I represented and she was pushed down some steps, she was also thrown out of a moving car into a pile of snow. There was another nanny that was working 70 hours, getting 50 cents an hour and sleeping on the floor on a thin mat," she said.

Joe Magee, an assistant professor at the Wagner School at New York University, researches power dynamics.

"People who have a lot of power, I think we tend to think aren't that nice, and I think that there is some truth to that," he said. "Because most of what we find in our research on power suggests that you get a little bit more selfish, you get a little bit more focused on your own goals. You're less apt to think about other people's needs and values."

'I Could Just Slap You'

Inside Ozzie's Coffee we continued our experiment and "mom" began ordering the "nanny" around. "I need you to get me water, NOW."

"Just a bottle of water?" the nanny asked.

"Well I don't want it in my hand, do I?" the mother snapped back.

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