Civil legal aid advocates take on Silicon Valley to assert the rights of vulnerable immigrant domestic workers.
November 15, 2015
Organizations mentioned/involved: Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus (Advancing Justice-ALC), Legal Aid at Work
Julieta Yang, a 45-year-old single mother of three from the Philippines, has filed a lawsuit against Uber executive Cameron Poetzscher and Airbnb head of global operations Varsha Rao. The lawsuit alleges that Ms. Yang did not receive regular breaks or proper pay and that Cameron Poetzscher sexually harassed her.
The case has yet to go to trial, but domestic workers’ rights advocates say Yang is helping increase awareness about the rights of domestic workers, who are particularly susceptible to exploitation.
“Domestic workers who work alone and behind closed doors are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, low pay, and other unfavorable working conditions,” said Winifred Kao, Yang’s lawyer and a senior staff attorney in the Worker’s Rights Program at the Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco.
“That vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that for many domestic workers, the place where they work is also where they live. Many are too scared to come forward and/or may not know that they have rights and can get help.”
Kao says both parties in the lawsuit are still investigating the claims and defenses made in the case, andYang’s fight is far from over. If the case goes to trial, she will face the burden of proving the allegations she’s made.
Carole Vigne, an attorney and the director of the Wage Protection Program at the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco, says the burden is on the worker to prove that the violations did occur. “I’ve seen employers doctor time sheets and forge signatures of workers to disprove allegations of wage theft… People go to extreme lengths to protect themselves from the allegations and the workers have to fight that,” Vigne said.
She says the cases are also emotionally hard for the women who file them and some cases take years to resolve.Tags: Access to Justice, Employment, Immigration, Minorities: Asian/Pacific Islander, Women, Workers Rights