November 14, 2016 - Can you imagine going to work every night for nine months and literally being locked in your work place and told if you try to leave that the alarms would go off and the police would be called? That is what happened to Wage Dispute client Martha. Martha is a 38 year- old indigenous, undocumented woman from Guatemala who could not speak or write English or Spanish. She went to work every night for a cleaning service and cleaned a well known chain restaurant after hours. Upon arrival, she would be locked in the restaurant and told that she couldn’t leave before the morning when an employee would come to unlock the door and let her out. Martha worked in fear. Even if her job took less than the overnight hours to complete, she would stay in the restaurant by herself, scared to leave. Martha was not only threatened, but was not paid for all of the hours she was locked in the restaurant.
Martha was referred to our Wage Dispute Project by Immigration attorneys working with Catholic Charities. Wage Dispute attorney Vanessa Coe was able to get Martha $5,000 in restitution from the cleaning service that employed her. The Wage Dispute team not only got Martha the money she deserved, but were there to listen to her and to reassure her that what she experienced was wrong. Vanessa and Wage Dispute Paralegal Miriam Erian hope they also empowered Martha so that in future employment situations she will know how she should be treated by employers.
(Martha’s name was changed to protect her privacy. Her story is based on a real life account of The Wage Dispute Project.)