Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of eBay, was accused by her former housekeeper and nanny, an undocumented Mexican national, of employing her despite knowing of her status as an illegal immigrant for six years. The woman — Nikki Diaz-Santillan — claims that Whitman knew she was an illegal immigrant but kept her on as her vulnerability to retaliation meant she could be more easily exploited.
Although Diaz was hired for 15 hours a week at $23 an hour, Whitman worked her for more than 15 hours a week as a housekeeper, nanny and go-fer, the billionaire refused to give her more money or a raise. She also refused her a leave when she became pregnant in 2005.
In April 2009, Whitman informed Diaz that she was going to run for governor of California. At a press conference at the offices of her attorney, Gloria Allred , a tearful and frightened Diaz told the press that she then asked her employer for help to regularize her immigration status. Meg Whitman’s respeonse was to laughed at her request. Whitman’s husband, who was present, told his wife that he had warned her that Diaz was going to make trouble and began yelling at Diaz.
After promising Diaz that she’d have her lawyer look into helping her become a legal immigrant, she turned on her long-time employee.
“She said, ‘I cannot help you,'” the highly emotional Diaz said at the news conference, which was carried live by the celebrity news site TMZ.com.
Whitman went on to tell Diaz, “‘And don’t say anything to my children. I will tell them you already have a new job …. And from now on you don’t know me, and I don’t know you. You have never seen me, and I have never seen you. Do you understand me?’ “
Diaz said,”I was shocked and hurt that Ms. Whitman would treat me this way after nine years….. She was throwing me away like a piece of garbage.”
Whitman fired Diaz in June 2009 so that the news that she had knowingly employed an undocumented worker would not cripple her political chances. Diaz told the news conference that Whitman “treated me as if I was not a human being.”
Allred is filing a complaint with the state of California seeking back wages allegedly owed to Diaz by Whitman.
The Whitman campaign denied the charges before the press conference had taken place, having identified the worker even though Allred had not contacted Whitman. Whitman’s defense is that Diaz provided Whitman with copies of her Social Security card, immigration status, and driver’s license and that Whitman did not know she was an illegal worker until Diaz informed her of the fact. Whitman then fired her.
According to Allred, in 2003, the Social Security Administration sent a letter to Whitman telling her that Diaz’s Social Security Account Number did not match her name . The letter informed Whitman that this was a clue that Diaz actually was an undocumented (illegal) alien. The Social Security Administration asked Whitman to check on her status, and gave her tips on how to do so.
Allred said Whitman didn’t do anything about the letter, and that she also ignored subsequent letters, letters that Diaz came across discarded in the garbage. Diaz claims that Whitman never asked her about the mismatch, which Allred explained to the press as the act of someone who wanted to keep the whiphand over a vulnerable worker that they could continue to exploit.
The attorney called Whitman a hypocrite as she had at last night’s gubernatorial debate said that employers needed to be vigilant and not employ illegal immigrants. Allred says that Whitman knew that Diaz was undocumented since 2003 and only fired her because she was running for governor.
2010 Governor’s Race
Meg Whitman is the Republican Party’s gubernatorial candidate in California, a state in which the population is over one-third Latino. Allegations of racism may tip the election to her rival, current Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Gloria Allred’s web site bills her as “Discrimination Attorneyt/Feminist Lawyer.” Allred was the attorney for Jodie Fisher, whose allegations of sexual harassment against Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd led to Hurd’s resignation.
Ironically, Hurd’s predecessor as H-P CEO, Carly Fiorina, is another political novice like Meg Whitman who won the Republican nomination for high office on her first try. Fiorina is challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat. To win the primary, in which she beat former Congressman Tom Campbell, Fiorina spent $6.7 million of her own money and provided her campaign with a $5.5 million loan, hardly Whitmanesque numbers.
Whitman has been hit with legal woes alleging improper behavior to employees before. In 2007, while serving as the CEO of eBay, she settled a claim by employee Young Mi Kim who had threatened to sue her for angrily shoving her before a scheduled news conference.
Many eBay employees witnessed the incident, and Kim — a corporate communications executive who still works for the company — won approximately $200,000 via mediation, according to the New York Times.
New York Times, “Settlement Was Paid in Whitman Shoving Incident”
TMZ.com, “Meg Whitman’s Housekeeper — ‘Explosive’ Allegations”