LOS ANGELES – Stephanie Ong couldn’t have anticipated the harsh working environment she would find herself in after travelling to the U.S. from the Philippines for on-the-job training in the hotel and resort management industry.
She was physically and verbally abused, given an impossible workload, frequently threatened with deportation and denied overtime pay. After she had been injured by a housekeeping cart that ran over her foot, her supervisors said the La Salle University student’s English was too poor for them to transfer her to a non-menial position.
When Ong looked in the mirror, she could see the evidence of her employer’s mistreatment.
“I was so skinny, paper thin, and pale like a scavenger,” she told people gathered to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the EMPLEO-Pinoy during the Larry Itliong Parade at St. Columban’s Church on Saturday, October 22. “This was the first time I’ve talked to people about this because, back then, I didn’t have the courage to talk.”
Her fears echo the struggles of workers throughout history who suffered abuse at the hands of their employers and lived in fear of retaliation. Ong’s story reminded those in attendance at the public gathering held three days ahead of the holiday celebrating the Filipino labor leader’s birthday on Tuesday, October 25 that the fight for fair treatment continues into the present.
Before finding the nerve to tell her story in public, Ong reached out to the Pilipino Workers Center (PWC). The nonprofit connected her to mental health professionals to help her cope with the trauma she had endured. They also directed her to the services of the EMPLEO-Pinoy initiative, which helped her find justice and secure her immigration status.
The initiative pairs the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Philippine Consulate, and organizations like the PWC to stop wage theft, employee abuse and child labor and to inform all workers of their rights.
“If you are a worker working in the united states, regardless of your immigration status, as a worker you have rights,” said WHD Community Outreach and Resource Planning Specialist, Ralph Valles. “As a partner with EMPLEO-Pinoy Pinoy, the Wage and Hour Division is here to help.”
Workers who believe they may be the experiencing unfair working conditions, or employers who are unsure if they are in compliance with labor laws can reach out to EMPLEO-Pinoy by dialing its hotline at (877)-885-6641. (Eric Anthony Licas / AJPress)