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Housekeeper sues Montgomery family

A 55-year-old housekeeper sued her Montgomery County employers Tuesday, alleging the family of three kept her in a "forced labor" arrangement and didn’t pay her for more than four months of work.

An attorney for the family denied the allegations. And in earlier conversations with Montgomery County police detectives, the housekeeper said she was allowed to leave the employer’s house and that she had access to a telephone, according to a police spokeswoman. The detectives didn't find any indication of human trafficking, which they have pursued in other cases, and didn't file charges in the matter, law enforcement officials said.

Attorneys for the domestic worker, Janet Gonzalez, a legal immigrant from Venezuela, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday. Casa de Maryland played an active role in the case, and called a news conference Tuesday morning to announce the filing.

Among the allegations in the lawsuit:

  • The employers – Belinda, James and Brittany Caron – placed an advertisement on Craigslist, seeking a Spanish-speaking housekeeper in their home, in rural Dickerson, 30 miles from Gonzalez’s home in Washington.
  • Gonzalez responded, and eventually went to work under the impression she would be taken to and from the Shady Grove Metro station, which is 16 miles from the Caron's home.
  • The Caron's kept Gonzalez at their home, continually promising her she would be paid, but never doing so, and refused to drive her back to the Metro station.
  • The Carons "restricted plaintiff's access to the telephone and to computers."
  • The Carons never paid Gonzalez.
  • Around January of this year, Gonzalez saw a human trafficking hotline advertised on television. "Once she was able to gain access to a telephone, she called the number and was eventually put in touch with an employee of Casa of Maryland," the lawsuit stated. "Casa of Maryland arranged for a group to go to [the Carson's] house and take [Gonzalez] from the house."
Gonzalez's attorneys said she is owed about $14,000 in unpaid wages, and is entitled to triple damages -- $42,000 -- just for wage claims.

Asked why Gonzalez hadn't used the phone to call the police, friends or a taxi, Ashwini Jaisingh, a domestic worker organizer for Casa, said Gonzalez was worried the police would take the family's side, two people she knew well had left the country, and she didn't have any money for a cab.

Belinda Caron referred inquiries to her attorney, Dennis Ettlin, who said the Carons denied any wrongdoing.

"They never held her captive … She was a liberty to leave anytime she wanted to," said Ettlin.

The Carons also attempted to get her another job, he added: "Jimmy Caron tried to find employment for her."

Lucille Baur, a spokeswoman for the Montgomery County police, said detectives met with Gonzalez and spent many hours on the case. Gonzalez told the detectives she was allowed to leave and had access to the phone and Internet, Baur said.

-- Dan Morse

By Dan Morse  |  August 10, 2010; 7:42 PM ET
Categories:  Dan Morse , Montgomery  
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i don't believe her. i think it's a ploy to counter the backlash over immigration in this country. she said they restricted access, not denied access, which to me means she had some access. also, unless she was chained in the basement, she could have left long ago. if she was alone long enough to complete the process of calling a hotline and wading through the various people to get to who she needed, she could have left the house and flagged down a police officer.i don't believe her.

Posted by: icebluekoolaid1 | August 10, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Casa de Maryland, Now there's a RACIST group!

Posted by: gpl2411 | August 10, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

The woman has legs that work, right? Walk to a pay phone. I'd hate to see what would happen to her if she owned a car and it broke down. Would she stay by the side of the road for 4 months because she couldn't find a ride home?

Posted by: slydell | August 10, 2010 10:50 PM | Report abuse

>>Gonzalez's attorneys said she is owed about $14,000 in unpaid wages,

lol, for four months of work as an immigrant housekeeper?!? That is over $40,000/year. Sure.....

Posted by: slydell | August 10, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I don't believe her either...something is not right...BTW I'm from Venezuela.
Hmmm....agree with all the comments here....

Posted by: vassily2005 | August 10, 2010 11:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm inclined to believe that there is more truth to the housekeeper's story than not. Don't write off the possibility that people, in this case the "employers," could behave this way. Sometimes we give the benefit of the doubt to folks who have reached a certain station in life and that's just not fair or necessarily right. It's unfortunate that some think that they can bully others, but that's what it boils down to. In the end, resolution to this situation may not come through legal channels, but I hope that the "employers" will reexamine their inclination to treat others so poorly. Maybe all they need to know is what they learned in Kindergarten - treat others as you would like to be treated.

Posted by: smittysgirl | August 11, 2010 12:47 AM | Report abuse

The racism here is simply breathtaking. Shame on you all. I wonder if any of you consider yourself Christians.

Belinda Caron is a well-known witch in the real estate business. This behavior matches what people who have dealt with her for years know: she's a selfish brat. I hope she loses her license over this. If she were a cop, she'd be on leave then return soon. Thankfully, she's not.

It amazes me that some of you think that because someone cleans toilets and doesn't speak english, they automatically want to use other people. You're sick people. Get help, if there is any for that condition you suffer.

Posted by: FiatBooks | August 11, 2010 7:20 AM | Report abuse

they thought they would get an illegal that they could just abduct forever. instead they get a legal who's suing them. it's definitely the Caron's fault in this instance. if none of the other charges stand, they at least owe her wages for 4 months, even if its less than 14 grand. (which to me sounds like a lot)

Posted by: destewar | August 11, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Something sounds odd, but I'll withhold judgement until more details come out. I don't understand why she did not call 911, did she fear them?

Posted by: Guest1234 | August 11, 2010 8:43 AM | Report abuse

If you look at the Maryland judicial website the Caron's have a laundry list of judgments/settlements against them for just this type of activity. I'm far more inclined to believe the housekeeper than these wealthy/entitled scuzballs.

Posted by: dgrover15791 | August 11, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

i would think they would deduct food and lodging from the womans wages. so even if she was owed $14k in wages, it would end up being a lot less.

I saw the woman on the news talking about how she was called stupid and other insults. that to me does not equate human trafficing or forced labor.

Posted by: MarilynManson | August 11, 2010 9:15 AM | Report abuse

actually, now that i think about it; the $14k in salary most likely includes overtime charges. She could of been "working" 16 hours a day, 7 days a week. so in addition to 40 hours a week regular pay, that would include an additional 72 hours of overtime pay at time and a half.

so they are pricing her wages at $10 an hour.

Posted by: MarilynManson | August 11, 2010 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Fishy story...but if the Carons were not writing a check to her, then they weren't taking out soc. security $$$ for her SS account. And if Mrs. Caron is the successful realtor as claimed, then she is WRONG for paying her under the table.

Posted by: DecafDrinker | August 11, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse

"Restricted plaintiff's access to phone"

Could this have possibly been another way of saying that she was told that she shouldn't be talking on the phone while she's on the clock?

"Restricted her access to a computer"

Did the housekeeper bring her own computer with her? A person working in real estate has social security numbers and personal information for all her clients on his or her computer, so I could see why she wouldn't allow the housekeeper to use it.

Hey CASA - maybe you shouldn't back people based solely on race.

Posted by: mwstevenson | August 11, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I think there are shenanigan going on with both sides. This family was looking to hire someone on the cheap. No doubt that they didn't fill out tax return for their "nanny." She probably got disenchanted with the low pay and restrictions so is lashing out for a money grab.

Posted by: jabreal00 | August 11, 2010 11:00 AM | Report abuse

What happens if she works at McD's? Would she stay there 24/7 because she can't get a ride home then call the police 4 months later?

While I feel for those in poverty, I don't feel for those that don't exert their rights and independence on the notion that they have no other choice. You have every right as a legal immigrant to walk out that front door the minute you feel injustice. It is YOUR choice to stay there. EVERYONE has a crappy boss. EVERYONE. Cry me a friggin river.

Maybe she'd like to go back in time 100 years and witness true slavery???

Posted by: slydell | August 11, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

So CASA DE MARYLAND who we sponsor is fighting for illegals?

Posted by: seraphina21 | August 11, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Yes, Seraphina - CASA (who receives taxpayer money) facilitates the employment of illegal immigrants as day laborers who get paid under the table so they don't pay taxes.

Posted by: mwstevenson | August 11, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Based on the article, this doesn't seem to qualify as a case of either Human Trafficking or forced labor. Thankfully, we have civil courts where Janet Gonzalez is bringing her allegations for fair consideration and evaluation by a jury. - Prof Patt,

Posted by: profpatt | August 11, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Someone is looking for "free" money.

Posted by: jckdoors | August 11, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

I don't get this- maid claims to have family and friends she ;lives with in DC. If my roommate was missing for several months, and had zero contact with me and our common friends and family, and I am a legal immigrant, I'm calling the DC Police and filing a missing persons report. Fishy fishy story...

Posted by: lee3333 | August 11, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Is requesting a "spanish-speaking" maid usual? Or is this just code for someone we hope to exploit?

Posted by: Redial1 | August 11, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

If you knew the Carons (at all) you would know that the housekeepers claims have to be true. This is a crazy family. When their youngest daughter had a sleepover and my child was uncomfortable there (now I know why) and wanted to come home, Belinda Caron yelled and berated her and the other girls that wanted to leave - what mother does that? Thank god I got my child out of there as fast as possible. Other news reports state the Caron's blocked the exits when the group came to get the housekeeper out. It was eerily familiar that she tried to "block" the children from leaving. Wackos for sure.

Posted by: gottarun | August 11, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

ummm it baffles me how everyone gets mad at the immigrant WORKERS for not paying taxes but you never get mad at the AMERICAN business owners who EMPLOY them for cheaper labor. Why is that? Isnt this essentially taking jobs from the american people? And when you look at all these homeless people begging for money on street corners, they are usually not hispanic. Dont know if youve noticed that. They are however your fellow americans that you dont care about EITHER. Dont see you guys complaining about them not paying taxes for their "work".

Posted by: CapsBeatdown | August 12, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

If half of what was alleged was true, the State's Attorney's office should be all over this for a number of felonies, including kidnapping.

I tend to agree with most who have doubts. I suspect this is more a case of a greedy attorney who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The poor Latina woman could be counter-sued and essentially work to pay the injured parties for the rest of her stay here in the country. Or she can simply disappear into the network of 20 million illegal immigrants from all over the world.

It's a no-win for everyone.

Posted by: cibor | August 13, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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