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Housekeeper files lawsuit for unpaid wages, punitive damages

A legal immigrant from Venezuela came from Washington, D.C., to a Montgomery County home earlier this year to work as a housekeeper for a Dickerson family. She expected to be paid $350 a week plus transportation enabling her to go home on weekends. What she allegedly got was verbal abuse and restrictions that, according to an immigrant advocacy group, rose to the level of "slave-like conditions."

Janet Gonzalez has now filed a federal lawsuit against Belinda and James Caron for unpaid wages and punitive damages. The suit charges the Carons with breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentations, as well as violations of federal and state labor and wage laws.

Gonzalez claims that she worked seven days a week for the Carons for close to five months. She states that she was never paid, never had a day off and could only leave the house when accompanied by a Caron family member. "I felt a lot of fear," says Gonzalez. "I thought I would never see my family again."

Gonzalez was eventually able to reach Casa, a nonprofit advocacy group, over the telephone. Casa members arrived en masse at the house to help her leave. Gonzalez says that the Carons blocked the exits in an effort to prevent her from departing.

Gonzalez' suit seeks $14,000 in owed pay. She has also filed the first-ever complaint under a county law that requires employers to provide domestic workers with a written contract, which she lacked.

Related Resource: www.gazette.net "Housekeeper files first complaint under county domestic worker law against Dickerson family" August 10, 2010

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