Filipino caregivers win wage theft battle
SAN FRANCISCO - Sasan Amacan and Segundina Lintag filed cases against their former Filipino employers and won in separate settlements that awarded them thousands of dollars in back wages.
In 2010, Lintag only got paid as low as $180 a month, to care for six seniors, 14 hours a day. She said, “I wanted to give up and go home to the Philippines. But I knew that life would be harder there, so I suffered the abuse.”
Lintag sought the help of the Filipino Community Center (FCC) and filed a case against her employer before the Office of Labor Standards. She won. A few months ago, her employer settled with her for more than $21,000.
The settlement is being paid to her on an installment basis. Although she’s happy with it, she said, “I wish they would give it in full, so I can enjoy the money I deserve.”
Amacan, on the other hand, worked as a caregiver for six disabled youth, working 16 hour days. He was paid only $50 dollars a day, and did not get any overtime pay, no meal breaks, no health insurance.
He said he took the abuse so he could send money to his 10-year old son, Vince, in the Philippines. He said he felt hopeless in his situation. But he knew he had to fight back for the abuses to stop.
In 2011, he filed a case against his employer before the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement through the help of the Filipino Community Center. In January, his employer settled with him for $16,000 in back wages.
He said, “This should be a message to employers that the abuses have to stop, that workers can fight back and can win.”
These Filipino workers and their advocates said the fight against wage theft is not over. They said there are still many Filipino caregivers who are being abused and the fight has to continue.
In fact, an estimated $30 billion or more is lost in wage theft to U.S. workers every year, according to the study, “Wage Theft in America”. The Economic Policy Foundation said that every year, companies steal an estimated $19 billion from workers in unpaid overtime.
Mario de Mira, an advocate from the FCC said, “There is plenty more to be done. We’re just at the tip of the iceberg in terms of workers’ rights. Wage theft is just one aspect of it. We have to continue fighting for immigrant workers, regardless of their immigration status. We have to fight, not just for wages, but for benefits.”
Currently, San Francisco has a Wage Theft Ordinance that lobbies against abuse of workers. But these caregivers and their advocates said the only way the abuses will stop is through stricter regulation and more sanctions against employers who commit these abuses.