LOS ANGELES (AP) – A former housekeeper sued a Kenyan consular official this week alleging she took her passport, told her not to leave the house without permission and paid her a fraction of what she was promised after bringing her to work in Los Angeles.
Aqulina Mwelu George, 24, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles late Monday seeking six months of back pay and damages from her former boss, according to a copy of the lawsuit.
The suit alleges that consular official Angela Soila Kasaine agreed to pay George $9.27 an hour to care for her daughter and perform housework in a contract filed last year with the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi when she applied for her visa.
Once she got here, George claims she was offered only $300 a month even though she worked 11 hours a day every day.
“It’s a situation that is sort of ripe for abuse, where you have people bringing in generally staff from their own countries, unfamiliar with their rights,” said Kevin Kish, an attorney with Bet Tzedek Legal Services who is representing George.
A woman who answered a telephone listed for Kasaine hung up Wednesday when called by The Associated Press.
It isn’t the first time a domestic worker has accused a diplomat in the U.S. of failing to pay them. In New York, an Indian deputy consul general was indicted on visa-fraud charges for allegedly telling the U.S. government she was paying her housekeeper $4,500 a month while actually paying her less than $3 per hour in a highly publicized criminal case that roiled relations between the two countries.
According to a copy of the California civil lawsuit, George was promised free room and board in the United States and an eight-hour workday. After arriving here in May, George claims Kasaine told her “people in the United States were bad” and that she should not speak to them, the lawsuit alleges.
In November, George confronted Kasaine and was thrown her passport and told to leave. George called a State Department hotline, and police were sent to retrieve her documents, the lawsuit said.
Since then, George has been housed at a local shelter for survivors of human trafficking, said Sabrina Wong, a spokeswoman for the Coalition to Abolish Slavery & Trafficking.
George is seeking $21,000 in back pay and also damages, Kish said.