family.sued.for.slavery

ATTY. FELIX VINLUAN

 

A New York Filipina woman has taken her employers to court claiming they enslaved her without pay and subjected her to almost 10 years of backbreaking labor and psychological abuse.

In the suit filed on Dec. 28 before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, Leticia Y. Moratal of Queens also accuses Elsa and Augusto Nolasco and their two daughters of confiscating her passport, isolating her from the outside world, renaming her “Baba” so she couldn’t be truly identified by other people, and forced her to work 84 hours a week without pay from March 2001 to November 2009, until a good Samaritan woman helped her escape on Dec. 16, 2010.

Moratal sued the Nolascos and their daughters, Rosareida Nolasco and Laarni N . Savino, for peonage, forced labor, slavery, human trafficking and other charges.

Represented by lawyer Felix Vinluan, she’s demanding a jury trial in her suit now in the hands of Judge Frederic Block.

Moratal says she learned of the nanny position in December 2000 through Elsa Nolasco’s son, “Sol,” who was her co-worker in a realty company in the Philippines.

Elsa Nolasco promised Moratal she would be paid $800 per month to watch her infant granddaughter in Jamaica Hills, N.Y., and that she would get one day off per week, Moratal claims in the suit.

Moratal says that when she arrived in New York in March 2001, Elsa told her that the position was actually at her daughter Laarni’s home in Tavernier, Florida.

Despite her “soft protest,” Moratal went to work in Florida, where she was to tend to the infant, and perform “general household duties, such as house cleaning, cooking, laundry, ironing clothes and yard work.”

She also says upon arrival in Florida, Laarni confiscated her passport, supposedly for safekeeping.

She says she was also forced to work 25 hours a week beginning June 2004, sewing and packaging children’s dance wear when Laarni opened her business called “DanceNKids.”

Moratal says the family would not let her leave the house alone or talk to visitors, “especially if they were Filipino or Filipino-American.”

She says she rarely attended mass unless she was guarded and supervised by her employers’ family member, who also monitored her whenever she did some yard work or had to bring out the garbage on pick-up days.

In her lawsuit, Moratal says the family threatened that “she could be picked up by the police or by immigration authorities for being unlawfully present,” and forced her into “silence and obedience by keeping her in constant state of fear of deportation.”

Moratal claims she was cut off from contact with her relatives in the Philippines.

She says she could only write occasional letters to her family when Rosareida took pity of her and gave her some stamps to use.

If her relatives called for her, the family would tell them she was unavailable, she says, and the Nolasco family would not let her use their telephone.

During her stay in Florida, Moratal says she was forced to sleep in the family’s stock room or on the baby’s bedroom floor.

She adds that the Nolasco family called her “Baba,” and that Laarni’s daughter introduced her to her school friends as “Baba, our slave.”

In November 2009, Laarni sent Moratal to New York to care for Elsa and Augusto Nolasco.

There she had to sleep on a sofa near the dining room.

“In addition to the loss of her privacy, she could not even go to sleep when other people in the house were still awake and about the living room,” the suit says.

Moratal claims that Elsa and Augusto verbally abused her, calling her a “slave” and “good for nothing,” and that Elsa cursed at her when she “complained that she was not receiving her compensation at all.”

Moratal says the family did not provide her with personal hygiene supplies or medicine on a regular basis, and that she “had to make use of utensil detergent as hair shampoo for at least two months because she was not given any provisions at all.”

Moratal says that throughout her employment with the Nolasco family, she was on call throughout the night to tend to the child or the elderly Nolasco grandparents, that she never had a day off and never was paid for her services.

She was “forced to be a full-time servant/nanny/cook at the beck and call of two households.”

When Moratal inquired about her compensation, she says her employers told her they still had to deduct their expenses of bringing her from the Philippines to New York, and then to Florida.

The second time she begged for her wage, she says she was promised the money will be sent directly to her relatives in the Philippines through Johnny Air Cargo remittance service in New York, according to the court papers.

Moratal said she didn’t know the exact amounts being remitted by Elsa Nolasco because Elsa refused to show her copies of remittance receipts.

During the few times that Moratal’s relatives were able to call and speak to her at Laarni’s Florida home, the relatives complained to her that the money they received were not on a regular monthly basis and that the amounts varied, which were definitely less than the equivalent of $800 a month in Philippine currency.

‘Good Samaritan woman’

Moratal says she spent almost a decade enslaved by the Nolasco family until a “good Samaritan woman” rescued her.

Details of that alleged escape were not specified in the suit.

Moratal demands “compensatory damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages and prejudgment interests” from the family and “DanceNKids” for violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, involuntary servitude, peonage/slavery, unlawful conduct, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, emotional distress, wage violations, unjust enrichment and conspiracy.