Whitman Scandal Highlights Vulnerability of Domestic Workers

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS/AP) – Domestic workers held a rally Friday calling for greater legal protection of employees who work in other people’s homes.

The two dozen child care workers, housekeepers and caregivers who demonstrated outside the women’s building said the allegations of gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman’s former house keeper echoed very common complaints in their professions.

“Studies that we’ve done of domestic workers here in the Bay Area show that they are routinely exploited. They’re paid less than minimum wage or not paid for extra hours worked,” said Andrea Mendoza of the Domestic Workers Coalition.

KCBS Anna Duckworth Reporting:

Whitman’s campaign was shaken by accusations Wednesday that she and her husband may have known about a 2003 letter from the Social Security Administration that raised discrepancies about her housekeeper’s documents, a possible tip-off that she could be in the U.S. illegally.

Mendoza’s organization is pressing state lawmakers to pass a bill of rights for California’s estimated 2.5 domestic workers similar to one approved in New York earlier this year.

Whitman characterized her former housekeeper, 39-year-old Nicky Diaz Santillan, as a member of her “extended family.” She dismissed the affair as a politically motivated attack instigated by the campaign of her Democratic rival, Attorney General Jerry Brown.

Bill Hing, a University of San Francisco professor who specializes in immigration law and policy, said Whitman broke no laws by keeping her housekeeper employed even after getting a letter from the Social Security Administration.

“If the reason she fired the employee was simply based on that no match letter, then that’s not sufficient. If the person however admitted that she was undocumented, then Meg Whitman had an obligation to fire her,” he said.

Hing said Whitman could have faced discrimination charges if the firing had occurred before the housekeeper admitted to being undocumented.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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