By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com September 29 2010 2:10 PM ET
Attorney Gloria Allred compared the alleged plight of a
undocumented immigrant hired to keep house by California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman to
"don't ask, don't tell" at a press conference Wednesday morning.
Nicky Diaz Santillan was hired by Whitman in 2000 to work as a housekeeper for 15 hours per week. However, Santillan alleges Whitman took advantage of her immigration status by adding more duties and errands to the housework, piling on extra hours that went uncompensated. She also allegedly forced Santillan to find a temporary replacement during her maternity leave. Not doing so would have cost Santillan her job.
In addition to the treatment, Allred said Whitman knowingly employed Santillan despite her being illegally in the United States from Mexico. Allred said she failed to follow up with a letter from the
Department of Social Security in 2003, which should have acted as a red
flag that Santillan was an undocumented worker. Whitman fired Santillan in 2009, just as the former eBay chief was planning to make a run for California governor.
"'Don't ask, don't tell' may have become 'Oh, my God, she will tell if I continue to employ her,'" Allred said.
In June 2009, Santillan said, she asked Whitman to help her obtain legal status to live and work in the country once she realized Whitman was planning to hit the campaign trail. Whitman spoke to her lawyer and later told Santillan, "'We cannot do anything for you,'" Santillan recounted at the press conference. "She said, 'I cannot help you. And don't say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job and that you wanted to go to school. From now on, you don't know me and I don't know you. You never have seen me, and I've never seen you. Do you understand me?'"
Santillan said at the press conference that she is coming forward now because, "I know there are a lot of Megs out there who are mistreating the Nickys out there who work so hard for them." Allred said the claims, which are being filed with state agencies, came up now because Santillan was not aware that she had the right to file such claims and that it had nothing to do with the upcoming election.
Allred refused to show documents proving her statements but said Whitman could easily disprove the claims by showing the correct paperwork.
Whitman fired back in the hours preceding the press conference.
“With the polls tied, it comes as no surprise that the morning after a successful debate for Meg that the sleaze machine of the political left is now focused on the politics of personal destruction," Whitman spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera said according to the Los Angeles Times. "Gloria Allred is a shameful manipulator and the timing of today’s news conference so close to the election should serve as a warning to Californians that they are witnessing dirty political smears at their worst.”