San Francisco, CA: October 7, 2015. (PCP) Julieta Yang, a Filipina migrant worker employed as a live-in domestic worker filed a complaint today in the San Francisco Superior Court against her former employers, tech executives Cameron Poetzscher and Varsha Rao. The complaint alleges that Poetzcher and Rao failed to pay Ms. Yang the required minimum wage and overtime for all hours worked and failed to provide the required off-duty breaks. The complaint also alleges that Poetzcher and Rao created and maintained a sexually hostile work and home environment and failed to prevent harassment in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
"For many years, I helped raise their children, cooked for them, did their laundry, cleaned their house, and was at their beck and call," said Ms. Yang. The complaint alleges that despite the long hours she worked, the couple paid Ms. Yang a flat rate that compensated for only five hours of work a day. The complaint further alleges that when his wife and kids were not home, Poetzscher sexually harassed Ms. Yang including but not limited to nudity, comments of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual advances, and unwanted touching. "I'm not alone," said Ms. Yang. "I want other migrant domestic workers to know that they don't have to work under conditions like this either."
Princess Bustos, an organizer from Migrante said, "Julieta is like many other Filipina migrant workers who, due to the lack of jobs in the Philippines and in order to support their children, are forced to work abroad, often under abusive conditions. Migrant workers are left alone to navigate new environments and cultures without protection and services from the Philippine government or any knowledge of their rights as workers," said Bustos.
More than 6,000 Filipinos leave the Philippines every day in search of a livelihood abroad. In 2014, migrant workers remitted $24.3 billion back to the Philippines and its economy. Despite this, the Philippine government fails to allocate sufficient funds or provide much needed legal and basic services to assure the protection of Filipino migrant workers. A majority of the migrant workers who leave the Philippines are women, many of whom end up employed as domestic workers.
According to American Community Survey (ACS 2004-2009), 46% of an estimated 2.5 million domestic workers in the United States are foreign-born. In a 2013 California report issued by the National Domestic Workers Alliance, 61% of domestic workers surveyed were paid an hourly wage at their primary job that was below the level needed to adequately support a family (using a conservative measure of income adequacy). 25% of the domestic workers reported that they were paid below the California minimum wage. Sexual harassment of domestic workers is also a problem. Worker advocates believe that the sexual harassment of domestic workers remains severely underreported.
"Domestic workers, who work alone and behind closed doors, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, low pay, and other unfavorable working conditions," stated Hina Shah, Director of the Women's Employment Rights Clinic at Golden Gate University School of Law, and one of the attorneys for Ms. Yang.
"Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that for many domestic workers, the place where they work is also where they live," explained Winifred Kao, Litigation Director at the Asian Law Caucus and also an attorney for Ms. Yang. "There is fear that coming forward will jeopardize both. We want people to know that community and legal organizations can help. Julieta and other live-in domestic workers like her are entitled to the minimum wage and overtime for the hours they work, and to a work and home environment free of sexual harassment."
"Despite the vulnerabilities, migrant and domestic workers are standing up and organizing. They are collectively educating the larger community about their experiences, taking action against abusive employers, and pushing for greater workplace protections. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect," said Bustos.