Whitman settles for $5,500 with ex-housekeeper

November 17, 2010 5:28:25 PM PST
Former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and her husband, Dr. Griff Harsh, have agreed to pay former housekeeper Nicky Diaz-Santillan $5,500 to settle a claim for unpaid wages during the 10 years Diaz-Santillan worked for the couple in their Atherton home.

"I want other housekeepers to know that they have rights to be paid for the hard work they do every day," Diaz-Santillan said.

Dennis Brown, attorney for Whitman, said there was no admission of guilt. Brown said a check was not written on the spot.

Diaz-Santillan and her attorney, Gloria Allred, filed their complaint with the California Dvision of Labor Standards and Enforcement. A three-hour long meeting was held at the state building in downtown San Jose.

One reason the meeting ran so long, according to Brown, was that they had asked Diaz-Santillan to look directly into the face of Harsh and tell him that she was owed money for back wages. Brown claims she would not do that, and that only prolonged the negotiations. Brown said the former housekeeper was seeking more than $10,000.

Diaz-Santillan read a prepared statement to reporters upon emerging from the meeting, both in English and Spanish. She encouraged other domestic workers to do the same thing if they are not paid for the actual number of hours worked. It is not known when the money will be paid.

Allred was asked what's next for Diaz-Santillan, given her immigration status. Allred said she was not representing Diaz-Santillan on immigration matters but Diaz-Santillan's immigration attorney Marc Van Der Hout says he hopes she will be able to stay.

"Been here for many years and led a productive life, so I'm optimistic that she'll be able to stay here in the long run, but the Dept. of Homeland Security has said her case will be handled like all other cases," he said.

ICE, the agency that enforces immigration law, has been quick to lock up and deport undocumented aliens, but a former immigration prosecutor believes Diaz-Santillan was handled differently for a reason.

"If they move against her, it looks like they might be favoring one candidate or another in the gubernatorial race, but by sitting back, they might also look like they're favoring certain immigrants over other immigrants," Daniel Shanfield said.

Diaz-Santillan's attorney believes his client will not be deported because of her roots and family in the United States.


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