Abused Filipino caregiver settles with employer for $100,000

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Posted at Nov 10 2012 11:52 AM | Updated as of Nov 10 2012 07:52 PM

SAN JOSE, California – Nelly Gonzales, 58, still gets emotional when she talks about her ordeal as a caregiver in the U.S.

For 15 years, Gonzales was abused by her Filipino employer, paying her as low as $150 a month, to care for six developmentally-delayed adults 24/7.

She said, “All I wanted was respect. No matter your stature in life, you deserve some respect.”

It took her 15 long, agonizing years but Gonzales finally found the courage to fight back, after she saw Filipino caregiver Victoria Aquino on Balitang America talk about filing a case against her abusive employer.

She pointed out, “If she could do it, I thought, I could do it too. I could fight for my rights.”

Through the help of the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants or PAWIS, Gonzales filed a claim for back wages against her employer in 2010.

PAWIS connected her with the Golden Gate Law Clinic, which provided her with free legal help.

Yesterday, in front of fellow caregivers, Gonzales announced that her employer settled with her for about $100,000.

But the fight is not over for Gonzales. PAWIS estimates that there are 114,000 Filipino caregivers in America — many of them abused.

Her kababayans need help.

This settlement may be a victory for Gonzales but the ultimate victory for her and her fellow caregivers is for the abuses to stop through legislation — through the passage of the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. The bill was vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown this year.

These caregivers and their advocates said they’re not giving up, until all caregivers — even those who are undocumented, are ensured proper wages and benefits.

Michael Tayag, organizer for PAWIS said, “Even if we see that there is more community organizing among domestic workers and caregivers, we really need to continue that fight.”

Gonzales’ message to fellow Filipino caregivers: “Speak up. Don’t be afraid. Fight for your rights — as a worker, and as human being.”