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NY Domestic Worker Challenges Involuntary Servitude

NY Domestic Worker Challenges Involuntary Servitude

Filipino Workers Center

"Justice for Elma, End Abuse Now!" is a new initiative of the Filipino
Workers Center that seeks to obtain justice for Elma Manliguez, a domestic
worker who was severely mistreated by her employer in Queens, and to
highlight the plight of domestic workers in New York.

On Tuesday, November 13, 2001, Elma Manliguez filed a civil action in the
United States Eastern District Court against Martin and Somanti Joseph. The
suit alleges that the defendants violated the U.S. Constitution, federal
and state laws by coercing Ms. Manliguez into coming to the U.S., forcibly
confining her in their house, subjecting her to inhumane work conditions,
and inflicting on her other forms of abuse and humiliation. The suit seeks
compensation for unpaid wages, as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Ms. Manliguez, a Filipino immigrant, worked for Martin and Somanti Joseph
for two years at their home in Queens after they coerced her into moving
with them to the U.S. from Malaysia. Mr. Joseph is an employee of Merrill
Lynch. In addition to doing extensive housecleaning, Ms. Manliguez cared
for the couple's three children and was responsible for their youngest
child 24 hours a day. During the 2 years she works for the Josephs in the
U.S., Ms. Manliguez did not receive one day off and was paid the equivalent
of 6 cents an hour. Aside from her unpaid wages, Ms. Manliguez endured
severe abuse. She was locked in the house, denied any form of health care,
adequate nutrition and reasonable living conditions.

"I'm bringing my case forward, not for me but for all like me - because my
experience is common," said Ms. Manliguez. "It's not right to be oppressed
and we shouldn't just cry about it. If we don't fight, nothing will happen."

Said Amanda Vender of the Filipino Workers Center, "Elma's case is one of
the horrible stories that can be told by many of the 2,000 migrants who
leave the Philippines every day in search of work to support their
families. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, who just visited New York,
tells Filipino workers not to come home to the Philippines because there is
no work there. So where is her concern for the plight of Elma and others
like her?"

"The Josephs clearly violated Ms. Manliguez' rights to fair wages and
conditions of employment under the U.S. Constitution, federal and state
laws," said Claudia Flores, legal intern at the Immigrant Rights Clinic at
New York University School of Law which filed the case on Ms. Manliguez'
behalf. "Elma's case highlights a prevalent problem in the U.S., that of
employers coercing and deceiving domestic workers from overseas, isolating
them and then abusing and mistreating them during their employment."

This is one of the first civil cases filed under the Trafficking Victims
Protection Act of 2000, a recently passed bill that seeks to punish
individuals or agencies that benefit from the trafficking of persons to the

Concerned individuals and organizations may support the campaign by signing
on to a letter demanding justice, and by joining upcoming actions. For more
information, a factsheet or for an interview, please call the Filipino
Workers Center at 212-741-6806 xFWC, or email fwc_nyc@yahoo.com #