Domestic Workers Sue to Recover Unpaid Wages

Despite the lack of posts, we’re still making waves in El Paso!

On Wednesday, two committee members, with the help of Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, filed suits to recover over $60,000 in unpaid wages.

ABC affiliate KVIA covered the suits (to read their article, click here):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

We were also featured in The Diario!

(For the original article in Spanish, click here.  For another Spanish article published by EFE on MSN Latino, click here )

Two Domestic Workers Sue Their Employers

Alberto Ponce de León
El Diario de El Paso | 07-01-2010 | 00:58 | El Paso

Yesterday, two domestic workers sued their respective employers in the El Paso County Court for having been paid less than the US federal minimum wage.

Chris Benoit, labor law specialist with Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project, the organization that represents them both, said that together, the suits are for more than $60,000.  Unjustly, he explained, one of them was underpaid by over $40,000 for the time she worked, and the other was underpaid by at least $20,000.

“One worked for 10 years and the other for 4.  Their employers never paid them minimum wage nor overtime”, said Benoit.  “One of them received $150 a week for over 50 hours of work, and the other received $120.”

On September 15, 2009, Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project started the Economic Justice Program with the goal of helping all workers whose labor rights are being violated in the United States.

Since then, they have filed “between 5 and 10 cases” in El Paso courts, and have successfully negotiated many more without having to go to court, he said.

The organization decided to file both cases the same day “to show that this is a systemic problem”.

One of the petitions, which was filed on behalf of Elvira Corral Olivares against Ana Maria de la Rosa, states that she worked for “approximately 10 years” receiving $150 for 50 hours of work a week.

The other petition is on behalf of Rosa Pena Perez against her ex-employers Pedro Bocanegra and Yvette Zesati, who worked for over 10 years earning $120 a week.

One of them worked six days a week and the other five, said the organization.

Their immigration status is irrelevant when defending their rights, affirmed Chris Benoit.

He mentioned that many domestic workers cross the border from Ciudad Juarez into El Paso to work in houses where they are treated or paid illegally.

Any employee in this county, irrelevant of immigration status, has the right to receive at least Texas minimum wage for their work, he assured.

A domestic worker, for example, should receive at least $290 a week for a 40 hour work week, he explained.

“They work in isolated places without much contact with the outside world.  They are vulnerable because of their immigration status.  Because of this we invite them to talk to us during their free time for assistance.  This is a real problem that is occurring,” he said.

The way they are treated often includes blackmail, he added.  Some employers threaten to report them to immigration if they try to complain.

“Many employers say they have made an agreement and that ‘the worker agreed to receive this amount of money’.  To them, we say that you can’t make contracts that violate the law,” said Benoit.

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