Written by Esther Yu-Hsi Lee
Undocumented Chilean nanny Felicitas del Carmen Villanueva Garnica filed a lawsuit this week against a New York City socialite couple who she alleges forced her to work 12-hour days and allowed their children to beat her, according to the New York Post.
Villanueva’s lawsuit charges that the couple’s treatment amounted to “involuntary servitude.” They reneged on their promise to provide a steady $10-an-hour paycheck, health insurance, and basic needs like food and shelter, instead underpaying her at $2 an hour, locking her in her room, and denying her medication. She also claimed that her employers gave her an illegal passport to America.
Although domestic workers are sometimes forced to work more than they are promised, undocumented immigrants like Villanueva are more at risk to be exploited for their vulnerability and supposed inability to report unsafe working conditions to law enforcement. The Post story indicates that Villanueva returned back to the family after she found the Chilean Consulate closed when she tried to report the abuses that she suffered. Like many undocumented immigrants, she most likely did not go to local law enforcement out of fear of deportation.
In all, 23 percent of domestic workers report being paid less than the minimum wage, and 25 percent of live-in workers say their employers have prevented them from getting an uninterrupted five hours of sleep a night. Fewer than two percent receive retirement benefits.
In 2010, New York became the first state to pass a basic labor bill of rights for domestic workers which includes nannies, caregivers, and home health workers, allowing for the right to overtime pay, a day of rest every seven day, and three paid days of rest each year. But undocumented immigrants who make up a large population of domestic workers are excluded from such guarantees, so it is not surprising that people like Villanueva are subjected to wage theft.
This post was originally published at ThinkProgress.
Photo from Thinkstock