A FILIPINA domestic employee won her wage claims against her former employers after a court trial held in Los Angeles Superior Court. Linda Alzate (not her real name), an immigrant worker represented by Filipino-American employment lawyer, Joe Sayas, obtained a court judgment in the amount of $827,506, representing wages, legal interest, penalties, and attorneys’ fees.
The judgment appears to be one of the highest verdicts to a domestic worker on a pure wage claim.
The court’s judgment is significant because it recognized the long hours that domestic employees work at private homes. Here, Ms. Alzate took care of the two children of Drs. Peter Sim and Lorraine Diego, both medical doctors, at their house in Hancock Park. Aside from her babysitting duties, Ms. Alzate was also assigned to do household duties such as laundry, cleaning the house, and cooking for the whole family.
In issuing its judgment, the court recognized that Ms. Alzate proved that she worked or made herself available for work from 18 to as much as 24 hours per day, and therefore should be paid for all those hours.
How could she be working 24 hours in a day? Attorney Sayas argued that Ms. Alzate’s sleeping time should be paid because as a live-in domestic worker, she was on-call or available to work during the entire time that she was with the children at the house. The Court agreed.
As in other cases he handled for employees, Atty. Sayas argued that the fixed monthly salary paid to Ms. Alzate did not pay for all hours worked. Before Ms. Alzate’s case, Atty. Sayas recovered $500,000 for two domestic employees and $425,000 for a security guard. All these workers were simply paid a flat monthly rate regardless of the long hours they worked.
The court’s judgment is a victory for Ms. Alzate, especially in the face of a vigorous opposition that did not concede any dime of wages was owed to her. It was a testament to the courage of this Filipina to have pursued her claims all the way up to trial. She is ready to fight for her rights on appeal proceedings that the employers brought.
Ms. Alzate’s claims covered the period only from April 2011 to April 2014 when she left her employment. Because most of her work occurred before 2014, a significant part of the wage award is based merely on the regular hourly rates.
In 2014, the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights became effective. This means that domestic workers who took care of children or seniors became entitled to overtime pay if they had work hours similar to Ms. Alzate’s. These workers should be paid the higher overtime premium rate which is their regular hourly rate multiplied by 1.5 (or “time and a half”).