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Domestic Worker Says She Was Paid Just $450 A Week For 9-Hour Days, Six Days A Week

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

On Wednesday, Julieta Yang, a domestic worker and migrant from the Philippines, sued Cameron Poetzscher and Varsha Rao, executives at Uber and Airbnb, alleging that they failed to pay her minimum wage and overtime, didn’t give her required breaks, and sexually harassed her.

Yang worked as a live-in domestic worker in the U.S. home of Poetzscher, head of corporate development at Uber, and Rao, head of global operations for Airbnb, as both a nanny for their two children and a housekeeper for two years. In a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court with the backing of the California Domestic Workers Coalition, Migrante Northern California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and Women’s Employment Rights Clinic, she alleged that she was paid a flat rate of $450 a week for just five hours of work a day no matter how long she actually worked. She says she regularly worked nine hours a day, six days a week. “For many years, I helped raise their children, cooked for them, did their laundry, cleaned their house, and was at their beck and call,” Yang said in a press release.

It also alleges that Poetzscher sexually harassed her with unwanted sexual touching, sexual advances, and comments as well as frequently appearing naked around the home while she was working. She also believed he tried to pressure her into a sexual relationship with him.

Yang migrated from the Philippines, and her three children still live in her home country. She supports them with the wages she earned as a domestic worker. According to the attorneys, 6,000 people a day migrate from the Philippines, many of whom are women who come to the U.S. to be domestic workers.

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California has a domestic workers bill of rights on the books that requires employers to pay overtime. The state’s minimum wage is $9 an hour. The suit also says that by creating a sexually hostile environment in their home and failing to prevent harassment, Poetzscher and Rao violated the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

There are more than 52,000 domestic workers in the Bay Area, but a report in 2013 found that 90 percent with formal contracts have no overtime provisions, while a quarter are paid below minimum wage. That leads to severe financial hardship, as over 60 percent said their wages were too low to support their families, while more than 50 percent spend more than half their income on rent and almost a quarter couldn’t afford food to eat in the last month.

While domestic workers of any background are vulnerable to these abuses, things may be even harder for immigrants. In 2013, an undocumented immigrant working as a nanny for a rich New York City couple sued them for allegedly forcing her to work 12-hour days and allowing their children to beat her. And earlier this year, a federal appeals court ruled against a wealthy woman who had forced an undocumented live-in domestic worker to work in slave-like conditions in her home.