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Caregiver Noel Celis Fights Back Vs Employer Abuse, Wins Lawsuit
Noel Celis is just one among the many abused Filipino caregivers in the United States. In a press conference in Oakland, Celis showed other kababayans why it is important to fight back.
“We value our work and our clients. So it’s also important that our employers value us. It just hurts that a fellow Filipino would abuse me,” said Celis.
A neighborhood in Danville, California.
The last 4 years was a nightmare for Celis, who worked as a live-in caregiver for a Filipino-owned care home in Danville, California.
He said his employer abused him, denying him the minimum wage of $8 an hour. For round-the-clock work, Celis only received $1,600 a month.
“I got to take short breaks from work from time to time. But most of the time, I was really working. And what I got paid was not enough,” he said.
Celis said his employer owed him $40,000 in back wages.
So he sought the help of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON to fight for his rights.
Katie Joaquin, organizer for the Filipino Advocates for Justice, said Celis’s case was a severe case of unpaid wages.
“But he had the spirit within him to fight and the community wants to support him. For any caregiver, if you have the community’s support behind you, you can win,” said Joaquin.
NAFCON and Celis approached Silas Shawver, an attorney for the Employment Law Center, which provides pro bono services to abused caregivers like Celis.
In August, Celis filed for back wages before the Labor Commission. Two months later, he received an undisclosed settlement.
Shawver said this is a landmark case. He said, “There are a lot of caregivers whose rights are not respected. They are not paid properly. But we’re seeing more and more people standing up for their rights, learning that they have rights.”
Shawver stressed that a caregiver’s immigration status does not matter. All abused workers — documented or not — have the same rights in the eyes of the law.
He said that live-in caregivers need to account for all the hours they work throughout the day and make sure that their employer pays them accordingly, including overtime wages.
Celis now works for another care home in Concord, California. Although he’s no longer abused, Celis said there are others who continue to suffer in silence.
“Now I know what my rights are. Other Filipino caregivers need to know theirs so they can fight back if they are abused,” he said.
Abused caregivers can contact the Silas Shawver and other lawyers working for the Employment Law Center at (415) 864-8848.
Source: ABS CBN News