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Domestic Worker Lodges Case for $38k Unpaid Wages

PRESS RELEASE:
Filipina domestic worker lodges case for unpaid wages

PRESS RELEASE
January 27, 2004

Filipina Domestic Worker Lodges Case for $38,000 in Unpaid Wages

New York - For almost two years Evelyn Aguilar worked as a domestic worker for Pui Yin Ma and Sau Chum Ho in a New Jersey suburb and was paid the equivalent of $1.60 per hour, as stated in her legal complaint filed in the US District Court in New Jersey. Ms. Aguilar says she filed the case because she "wanted to prove that I am not a weak person who can just be pushed around. My employers treated me like I was ignorant and I don't think they expected me to fight. I wanted to show them that all people are equal and that I can take a stand."

Ms. Aguilar (not her real name) is being assisted in her case by the DAMAYAN Migrant Workers Association, Inc. DAMAYAN organizes low-income Filipino workers, primarily nannies, housekeepers and caregivers, to know their rights and to fight for better conditions. Added Aguilar, "It's important to fight for our rights. Before, I didn't know anything about my rights, like the $5.15 minimum wage for everyone regardless of your immigration status. If you have a case similar to mine, you are not alone. DAMAYAN will always be behind you and you shouldn't be afraid."

The complaint states that Ms. Aguilar "cared for two small children including changing, dressing, bathing, feeding, entertaining and attending to the children if they woke up at night. She also did housekeeping including laundry, cleaning, ironing, grocery shopping, preparing meals, and sometimes washing the car."

Ms. Aguilar is owed an estimated $38,000 in unpaid wages and overtime pay. In addition to the wage violations, she was poorly treated in a number of ways: she was required to ask permission to leave during her "off" hours, she was made to sleep on a thin mat on the floor in the infant's room, and she was expected to attend to the child at night.

"DAMAYAN has worked on similar cases before and won. So much of our work involves educating our members that we have the right to be treated with dignity and to be paid for our work according to the laws- whether we are documented or not," said Ana Liza Caballes, Coordinator of DAMAYAN.

Caballes said that DAMAYAN has launched a campaign to ensure that Ms. Aguilar is paid the unpaid wages and damages due to her. "We're supporting Ms. Aguilar's case not only so that she will be paid what she is owed under the law, but so that others in her situation will also step forward, and so that employers will know that they cannot treat their domestic workers this way. We can only stop abusive employers when we support one another and stand up for our rights."

- To learn more about the case, the campaign, or to become involved, contact DAMAYAN at 212-564-6057 or contact@damayanmigrants.org.

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