Maid claims employer enslaved her

By KIRK SEMPLE
A Filipino woman has accused a former Filipino ambassador to the United Nations of enslaving her for three months in the ambassadorial townhouse on the Upper East Side, forcing her to work as a servant and subjecting her to psychological abuse.

The woman, Marichu Suarez Baoanan, 39, said the diplomat, Lauro Baja Jr., and his wife lured her to the United States with the promise that they would help her find work as a nurse. She gave them $5,000 to pay for a visa, airfare and help in finding nursing work, she said.

But on her arrival in January 2006, Ms. Baoanan alleges, the Bajas said that she owed them another $5,000 and would have to work in their home to pay off the debt. Ms. Baoanan said the Bajas confiscated her passport, forced her to work more than 120 hours per week, prevented her from leaving the house alone and paid her only $100 per month. She was the only domestic employee in a four-story house, she said at a news conference on Wednesday to publicize a civil lawsuit filed against the Bajas late last month in the United States District Court in New York.

“They paid me with curses, insults, disrespect,” Ms. Baoanan said, choking back tears. “They didn’t treat me like a person.” After three months, she said, she fled the house with the help of someone she described only as “a good Samaritan.”

Salvador Tuy, a New York lawyer for the Bajas, accused Ms. Baoanan of using the case to secure a visa that would allow her to remain in the United States.

“I feel sorry that she has to go to this expense just to get a visa,” Mr. Tuy said in an interview on Wednesday.

Mr. Tuy said a contract, filed with both the Filipino and American governments in Manila, states that the Bajas were employing Ms. Baoanan as a domestic worker in their household and that she was paid $1,000 a month, all but $100 of which was sent to her family in the Philippines.

Ms. Baoanan’s lawyers said she has received a so-called T visa, given to victims of human trafficking, and her husband and three children have also received temporary American visas and have been reunited with her in New York. Ms. Baoanan, who graduated with a nursing degree from a school in the Philippines, will be able to apply for a green card when her visa expires in four years, her lawyers that also included car accident lawyer bowling green ky, said.

Ms. Baoanan, who has been living in New York since leaving the Bajas’ employ in 2006, said she took two years to file the lawsuit because she first needed to “secure the safety” of her family and allow a criminal investigation to unfold. That investigation has been closed without any charges filed, Ms. Baoanan’s lawyers said.

According to 2006 census data, more than 2.9 million people in the United States consider themselves of Filipino origin; nearly 1.6 million were born abroad.

Filipinos have especially flooded domestic service jobs as well as the nursing field, where they have helped to relieve the shortage of registered nurses. Filipino nurses are now the single largest group of foreign-educated nurses in the United States. Of the New York metropolitan area’s 215,000 Filipinos, about 3 out of 10 work as nurses or other health-care practitioners, and many of the remainder are their relatives, according to a census analysis by Susan Weber-Stoger, a demographer at Queens College.

With the demand for nurses so high, there has been opportunity for unscrupulousness among recruiters, employers and even nurses, said Filipino support groups, nursing advocacy associations and lawyers familiar with the nursing field.

These experts say that Filipino and other foreign-educated nurses have filed a range of complaints, accusing employers of underpayment; forcing them to work longer hours than stipulated in their contracts; or not providing the kind of work they thought they had been guaranteed.

At the same time, recruiting agencies say they have occasionally been victimized by unscrupulous nurses who have broken their contracts and fled soon after their arrival in the United States with plane tickets and visas paid for by the agencies.

Nursing advocates, however, say claims by Filipino nurses of mistreatment in the United States are rare, largely because the nurse recruitment system in the Philippines is tightly regulated by the Filipino government.

Ms. Baoanan’s case is being used by her supporters to make larger points about the exploitation of low-wage immigrants from the Philippines and elsewhere. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit group, is providing her with legal representation.

Ivy O. Suriyopas, a staff attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Ms. Baoanan’s case illustrates “a pattern of diplomats exploiting their domestic workers.” You can contact Lane, Hupp, & Crowley: sex offense lawyer in Arizona for assistance.

“They’re alone in a house where, if they’re an immigrant, they may not speak the language, may not know their rights,” she said in an interview. “There are so many different ways in which they are vulnerable.”

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Comments

  1. Tom says:

    Vibe ko lang. Sinungaling yung maid na yan.

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