Sep 13, 2018
I’m Being Sued by Cleaning Lady

From the inbox: The cleaning lady asked for a raise before Pesach which we agreed to. Now, I got a court summons.

Many in the community currently use the services of Spanish-speaking cleaning women who hail from South or Central America, most of whom are in the country illegally.

I would like to bring to the unsuspecting public’s attention a story that is currently taking place, so that others can protect themselves when employing the above-mentioned people:

I employed one of these women full-time, for over eight years, paying her $10, then $11, and subsequently $12 per hour.

Before this past Pesach, she asked for $13 per hour, which I agreed to give her on condition that she would be willing to come for the next two Sundays before Pesach. Although she would work on Sundays when she needed extra money, this time she refused, and left the house with me being furious that she had turned me down.

She never returned, and I figured that she must have found a better paying job.

I must make it very clear that I was an extremely kind, lenient employer.

I gave her $10 every day so that she could buy her own kosher food, plus she had a free lunch hour that she got paid for.
Although, she damaged many clothing items, I never expected her to reimburse me.

If she worked very late, I would feed her supper and send her home with an Uber, at a fare of approximately $30.

When she complained that the workload was too heavy for her, (I live in a duplex with my husband and young daughter), I brought in a second lady to assist her.
She would chat on the phone while working, even though it impeded her speed and distracted her, but I never told her to turn her iPhone off.
I kept quiet when she would stay late because she wanted to make up her missed hours, even though I knew she was taking advantage of me.
I gave her many items of used clothing when she hinted that she desired them, plus I bought her teenage daughter a new winter coat when she asked me to.
Lastly, I tipped her very generously before the Jewish holidays.

This week I got a court summons.

This very woman, whom I wined and dined, and with whom I tried to make a “Kiddush Hashem”, treating her with utmost respect, is suing me!!! For the hefty sum of $75,000 dollars!!! She claims that she should have been paid time and a half for each of her hours of overtime. (She never, ever, mentioned time and a half in all her years of working at my home).

After consulting with three different lawyers, it is apparent that the law is on her side. (Ironically, she revealed to me recently that she has a deportation notice…). Sadly, there is little I can do but make a settlement with her. I do not know how much this joke will cost me in the end, but I am heartbroken to have to give my hard-earned Yiddish gelt to such a disloyal, ungrateful person.

Moreover, I now know that I am not the first gullible “heimishe” woman who has taken in a “Mexican” housekeeper, and then been sent a summons. This trend is becoming increasingly popular. There are Spanish speaking lawyers who offer these workers their services, free of charge, on condition that they get a share of the settlement money. The complaints against employees can vary, but the motive is the same.

I know some might ask why I kept her all these years if I had complaints against her. The truth is that I trusted her. She may have lied occasionally, but she never touched my valuables though she had enough opportunities to snitch. Plus, she was a reliable worker overall, who arrived when she said she would. She knew the running of my home, and she took off many of my responsibilities.

I sincerely regret being so gracious to her, and I feel that she has punched me in the face.

Ladies! Please don’t make the same mistakes as me!

Never trust these chevra even if you think they are truly loyal to you.
Never employ the same person for 40 hours a week or longer, unless she is prepared to be paid on the books, by check, and then have to pay her taxes. I wish I had insisted on this, but it is almost impossible to get a housekeeper under these conditions.

Keep a record of her hours and have her sign it. Thus, in the future, she won’t be able to claim that she worked longer. You must have proof. If not, it’s her word against yours. Overtime is considered eight or more hours a day, and/or forty hours a week or longer.

Remember: even if you only employ her once a week, she can sue you if she worked eight hours or more in a single day.
Never let them think you have spare money; they will simply take advantage of you.

I hope this report iy”H helps prevent others from experiencing these scenarios.

Most Read Most Comments

Opinions and Comments
How could she proves how many hours overtime did she punch in and out How can she prove anything say she worked seven hours a week.And if she’s going through this lawsuit wouldn’t that require her to pay taxes?
(9/13/2018 9:08:35 PM)
Joe the Barrister
BS”D don’t settle, counter sue for all the things she stole (mine would even help herself to pine-sol), did she keep time records or a diary of the hours worked , if not,forget it, the burden of proof is on her to prove she worked overtime. And ask the Rebbe for a Brocho and do NOT settle. Furthermore bc if the amount it is a Supreme Court (of NY) case and with
depositions, adjournments and the backed up calendar she will be long gone before this case comes to trial. Get a 4th opinion
(9/13/2018 9:12:23 PM)
So True!
Thanks for sharing. The same is with yidden working/ helping yidden. I was helping a you'd with something she requested and she eventually hurt me so bad.....
(9/13/2018 9:21:26 PM)
The law
If you employ someone for pay to do something for you, you are an employer. There are laws governing such an arrangement. Because there may be many laws and because they may be confusing and because others ignore such laws, does not free you from responsibility to abide by the laws of your land nor from the consequence for their violation.

Here's a sampling -

Paying a foreign-language-speaking individual cash does not absolve you of anything. And doing things you think are nice, does not compensate for any dereliction of your legal requirement.

I wonder what the point of this post is. Be careful because you might get caught breaking the law?

If this post's story is true, I'll acknowledge that the worker seems to have repaid kindness with something else, but that has nothing to do with whether the employer was illegally shorting the employee, and in stories between two people in argument, there's usually two differing perspectives on what occurred.

So, my point is, know the law when employing someone regularly. And if you get caught breaking the law, don't kvetch, especially publicly.

And somewhat a side note - interesting culture has developed that seems to consider cleaning help a requirement, while cleaning after oneself and teaching one's household members to clean after themselves is rarely on the radar.
(9/13/2018 9:30:57 PM)
counter sue
She has no record of hours and it's time to fight back. Make a list of every missing thing from the house that you "never wanted to think she took." Also, call ICE and see what can be done to speed up her case. Enough is enough.
(9/13/2018 10:20:16 PM)
Have the cleaning person fill out a 1099 to be an independent contractor and then no over time issues
(9/13/2018 10:25:39 PM)
To #4
The Rebbe sometimes told women to get cleaning help. You don't know this person's circumstances or what other obligations they have so please don't judge. If someone's donkey is under its burden, you're supposed to help it - this can also mean help for having a clean home.
Also, maybe the lady didn't know the law. Judge her for the best. A lot of people assume that if someone is an illegal immigrant that they are not covered by wage laws.
Instead of feeling so judgmental , maybe show some compassion. After all, especially in the aseres yimei teshuva, we want Hashem not to be so judgmental of us but to show compassion and bring the geula shlaima .
(9/13/2018 10:42:27 PM)
Just a Thought
I utilize a cleaning service for my home. (Clothing is something l prefer to do myself). There are two ladies who come weekly (more often if needed) and they are bonded with extensive background checks. The work is excellent. There is a signed agreement /contract with the service clearly explaining fees and what is covered so there are no hidden surprises or extra expenses. I knew several people who had items taken by private cleaners who just disappeared. The cleaning company offers me a sense of security and I wouldn’t do it any other way.
(9/13/2018 10:47:55 PM)
Give them a ring

(9/13/2018 10:50:21 PM)
It’s an old trick
Here in California this has been going on for a while. There are spanish speaking lawyers who seek out customers. The best thing is to ignore and not respond to these summons.
Eventually they drop it.
(9/14/2018 12:47:40 AM)
On being an absolute racist.
(9/14/2018 2:39:19 AM)
to comment #4
i assume by your "compassionate" input that you either don't have much cleaning help or you're wealthy enough to get your help from one of those "propah" agencies that charges $20.00 an hour and up, from the self-righteous sound of your lecture on labor laws i assume you meticulously report all the monies you pay in cash for services rendered otherwise,you'd be more sympathetic to this woman's plight. having said that i'm forced to add that i agree with you that people must become less reliant on cleaning help.
as far as this particular cleaning lady is concerned,i and many, many others would be delighted to vote for her immediate deportation back to the country she came from. there she'd be making $2- 3 an hour, and would be happy to have employment at that. here's a woman who can barely read the instructions on a can of cleaning fluid taking advantage of a naive employer and an inane american law that says an employee must be paid overtime after the initial eight hours of work on any given day; this, this makes no sense IF s/he and the employer agreed that s/he would work for whatever amount they mutually agreed on per hour. since this law, #4, is not Toras Moshe from Sinai my guess is that you,too,may have made an occasional gentleman's agreement with someone to disregard some regulated protocol or other
as to the case at hand, it had to have been quite evident to the cleaning lady that this employer would not have agreed to keep her beyond eight hours if she knew she'd need to pay time and a half for those hours, and the result, of course, would have been that this witch-cleaning lady would not have been so amply and profitably employed. here's an idea: why can't the employee be informed, before this case goes to trial, that exposure of her previously undeclared income will result in automatic action by IRS. they will go after her for unpaid taxes and she will not be allowed to get away with the consequences. considering all the late charges she's accrued, and the price it will cost her to try to get the charges reduced, plus, the hopefully high risk of deportation.she'll likely walk away from her diabolical scheme. of course, her passport would need to be revoked until her unpaid taxes were duly paid, otherwise she'd leave the country and pursue the case from whatever country she'd run to. it'd be nice if this poor excuse for a human being would feel what it's like to have a sizable percentage of one's hard earned income go towards government handouts to others. after taxes and penalties her $18.00 an hour would quickly be reduced to even less than the original $12.00 she'd agreed to. why, she might even get to carry the proud banner of america's taken- advantage- of middle class; fancy that!
(9/14/2018 2:58:08 AM)
Housekeepers have sued for other situations
Make sure to be insured in case she falls or hurts herself at your home. I've heard stories to that effect.
(9/14/2018 3:06:59 AM)
this is just awful for you.
i truly feel bad for you.
i don’t know your circumstance so this is not judgement but i was addicted to cleaning help and had different ladies for many years coming everyday to ‘help me’ (a stay at home mum of 4 ) until i realized i was bored and depressed my teen kids were lazy and my husband was frustrated how much of his earnings went to them so we said enough is enough and i went cold turkey and have had no one for a year . the house is spotless , i’m busy and houseproud , the kids pitch in , we have our privacy and we are saving a fortune !
I wish i would have got over my addiction years ago!
(9/14/2018 3:15:45 AM)
How much is your peace of mind worth?
Ask for documentation and make a copy, pay on the books. If the worker sues, you have something on which to stand. If the documents are counterfeit, it's they who are in bad faith. Consider the price difference an investment in peace of mind, and a form of insurance!
(9/14/2018 5:51:29 AM)
To 6
Household help must be paid on a W-2, 1099 would not protect you from workers comp or unemployment insurance.
(9/14/2018 6:29:13 AM)
1 hour
All she needs to prove is one hour and the corrupt bottom feeder lawyer gets paid by you. The law is not on the side of the employer. Good luck!
(9/14/2018 6:30:01 AM)
Not paid on the books?
If she was not paid on the books and is here illegally, then I do not see how on earth she could have a case! That means she is not paying taxes! And you can tell your entire side of the story to the judge. Do not despair - You do have a case!
But this highlights such an important issue in our community. Hundreds if not thousands of Jewish mothers in Crown Heights are literally buried and overwhelmed by messy houses. Their husbands and children are too spiritually lofty to lift a finger to do any cleaning help at all around the house. Do you realize that 90% of us would rarely need cleaning help if our families would pitch in even a tiny bit! From putting laundry in the hamper to taking the trash out, our children and husbands are being programmed to think this work is beneath them! Yet we learn from the seemingly mundane tasks of the Kohanim (sweeping up ashes, etc), that this "trivial" work is crucial to keeping a functioning, clean home (which is our miniature Beis Hamikdosh)! Cleanliness really is next to G-dliness, as the expression goes!
(9/14/2018 6:45:31 AM)
To #8
Can you please post the number to the cleaning service you use.
(9/14/2018 6:49:41 AM)
The law
The law establishes that you have certain responsibilities to your employees. Additionally by employing illegal immigrants you hurt the country and deprived the government of taxes which cause people who uphold the law to pay more taxes to make up the deficit. I hope you will somehow be obsolved of this but your complaining that you broke the law and got caught.

Imagine the shoe was on the other foot. Your bubbie or zeide moved to this country and were taken advantage of by an employer because they did not know any better and a a yiddish lawyer told them, "Your employer is taking advantage of you and not paying what is owed by law."

(9/14/2018 7:43:29 AM)
speaking on cell phone
does anyone allow their cleaning lady to talk on their cell phones all day? was just wondering how to go about it?
(9/14/2018 7:43:58 AM)
call ice get her deported
(9/14/2018 8:29:17 AM)
You need a employment attorney!
Some of the comments here reflect a lack of understanding of basic employment issues many employers deal with regularly. Unfortunately, I know a lot about these issues and it is necessary to have a good employment lawyer on your side. Mendy Halberstam is a frum attorney who specializes in employment law (he represents employers only, not employees). He lives in Miami but works for a large national employment firm with offices in NY and California (and all over the US). I've worked with him a lot, and he is an excellent employment litigator. If you are sued, reach out to him. He may not be the cheapest, but, in my opinion, he is worth every penny!
(9/14/2018 9:35:33 AM)
If cleaning lady can prove she was employed
the letter writer is in trouble. Her failure to pay taxes, declare income or anything else is her problem, however, it doesnt absolve the employer of his/her legal obligations.
(9/14/2018 10:03:03 AM)
Bureaucratic saavy
The story is very lamentable on all ends. Best protection: Use an agency. It may be more expensive, but the operators are far more likely to want to stay in business and keep the business reputable by getting referrals
(9/14/2018 10:07:13 AM)
To #18
Even with the husband and kids helping, there can be a need for outside help too. That’s how it is in my house, for example.

And by the way, never mind “too spiritually lofty,” and consider that older boys are in Yeshiva for the largest part of the day.
(9/14/2018 11:29:16 AM)
(9/14/2018 12:48:05 PM)
if she had the nerve to sue you after all you did to help her, I agree just call ice and have her deported.
(9/14/2018 12:59:55 PM)
my husband and children help.
as a mother with lots of little ones we need, deserve to have help. the Rebbe encouraged large families and lots of household help. this is not a new culture- i consider it a very Lubavitch culture going way back....I think its a compliment to our community that women are held up with respect for all they do and its encouraged to have help at home
(9/14/2018 2:10:41 PM)
Guard Up

"The truth is that I trusted her. She may have lied occasionally, but she never touched my valuables though she had enough opportunities to snitch. "

Honestly, "lied occasionally" should be a red flag! Just because she didn't steal anything (that you know of), doesn't mean she's trustworthy. You're allowing someone into your home, you need to raise your standards, for your own protection! If you know she lied, at any point, whether once or twice or 20 times, that should be enough to signal to you not to trust her.
(9/14/2018 3:02:20 PM)
chillul hashem
the racism in this post and the comments is abhorrent. you should have paid her fairly. her heritage has nothing to do with it.
(9/14/2018 4:33:59 PM)
calling ice can have this women sent back to her country and potentially murdered. is that really worth it to you?
(9/14/2018 4:37:23 PM)
So let me get this straight
You employed someone without bothering to look into employment law, paid her a substandard wage, and you're condemning entire countries-full of people because you didn't do your due diligence? Get over yourself.
(9/14/2018 5:52:01 PM)
I am embarrassed by the racist comments and by someone thinking they are doing someone a favor by paying an adult $12 or $13 an hour for house cleaning in NYC in this day and age. If you can't afford to pay more and follow the withholding laws, etc. or use an agency that takes care of those requirements, then you can't afford cleaning help. I would love to have help but don't for these reasons.
(9/14/2018 8:36:41 PM)
To 34
Really I was paid less than that when I worked for preschools as as a Morah and I'm an adult with a degree.
(9/15/2018 8:51:36 PM)
If you're the employer then...
If they're owned overtime you really do need to pay them. As for the "just 1099 them" comment above, that doesn't always apply. The IRS has a set of rules on when someone is considered an employee and when they are an independent contractor.

It is nice that you helped with food, uber, and the like. Best bet would be to tell them that's part of their normal wages and track everything. Otherwise it's one person's word against another.

And I'd leave the "Mexican" line out. Sounds more racist than not. We've had plenty of teenage girl babysitters that spend more time on their phones that with our kids and they are form the community.
(9/15/2018 8:58:51 PM)
Ask a professional
It's worth it to spend some money speaking to an expert in the field on how to proceed, especially for peace of mind
I'm sorry this happened to you, but it's a new year and a chance for a new start. Boruch hashem this is the biggest problem happening to you right now and you now have the knowledge to prevent it from happening again, or to others.
Please let us know how things work out.
(9/15/2018 9:37:51 PM)
23 is right
Mendy Halberstam is one of the nicest and fairest people around. He will certainly do you good. He's also quite smart and talented.
(9/16/2018 1:00:01 AM)
I don't see what is actually "racist" about this. Facts are that she was Spanish and the employer is Jewish. If either was Chinese, what difference does it make if they mention that?
(9/16/2018 7:22:45 AM)
Don't see any racism here...
Facts are facts...statistics are statistics. Are we supposed to avoid saying where they're from?
And why is it sad to have them deported? Of course it's worth it to deport such people who do such horrible things to others like theft...esp. after being treated so well!
Very nice of this author to publicize her story as a warning for others- I sure hope things work out to her benefit
(9/16/2018 11:08:27 PM)
Duke of Kingsbrook
1) Your lawyer may request the cell phone records of the cleaning lady, and may be able to delay lawsuit further because of them
2) Cell phone records go to reduced labor hours per week and is an important issue which may alleviate overtime issue
3) Although $10/hr net or $11/hr net may seem low to some readers, the gross minimum wage for employers with 10 or less employees was $10.50/hr gross after 12/31/2016 and $12 after 12/31/2017. $12/hr gross is about $10/net so her hourly age in cash is no worse than what minimum age is today.

The result is the people who are complaining will discourage people from hiring illegals. I hope the woman who wrote the article will get some solace knowing this happens in the restaurant business with the busboys and with contractors in construction.

I hope you get a good lawyer who negotiates this for you.
Hopefully the discovery request for cell phone records may delay case and reduce the overtime hours. But keep in mind, that defendant ( employer) pays plaintiff's (housekeeper's) lawyer fees which will be significant if housekeeper's lawyer is billing $350/hr.
(9/18/2018 12:28:47 PM)
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