A coordinator at the United Nations Development Program in Manhattan was charged with visa fraud and identity theft for hiring a domestic worker from Bangladesh, then refusing to pay her the wages he promised and telling her that if she worked for someone else, she would go to jail and then back to Bangladesh.
Hamidur Rashid, the UN worker, came to the United States with a G-4 visa, a non-immigrant U.S. visa for employees of international organizations and members of their immediate families. G-4 visa holders are able to bring their domestic workers into the United States with a G-5 visa, if they meet the requirements set out in the Foreign Affairs Manual, which requires that the visa applicant (the domestic worker) “receive a fair wage by U.S. and State Department standards.” It also requires that “All full-time, live-in domestic employees must be paid the greater of the prevailing or minimum wage per hour under U.S. Federal and state law, and in the jurisdiction which the domestic will be employed, for all hours of duty.” The G-4 visa holder seeking to acquire a G-5 visa for his employee must provide a contract “to demonstrate that the employee will receive a fair wage, and that the employee understands his or her duties and rights regarding salary and working conditions.”
In the initial contract that Rashid provided to the UN seeking permission to apply for the G-5 visa, he offered the worker $420 per week to come to the U.S. and work for his family but later forced her to sign a contract that paid only $290 per week. For an employee working only 40 hours per week, $290 per week comes out to $7.25 per hour, which was the minimum wage in New York in 2013. Although Rashid’s employee worked over 8 hours per day and 5 days per week for an approximate total of 48 hours per week, Rashid never paid her as much as promised in either contract. For example, between January and July 2013, the employee was only paid about $600 per month, which, had she only worked 40 hours per week, would only come out to about $3.49 per hour, well below the minimum wage at the time. Furthermore, to hide the fact that he was paying her below the minimum wage, Rashid set up a sham bank account in her name and deposited what would have been lawful wages into that account. The employee left his household in October 24, 2013 and has not returned.
“Domestic workers brought to our country from abroad find themselves in a vulnerable position, far from home and facing a huge power imbalance relative to their employers,” Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement. Rashid “took cruel advantage of his position of power, grossly overworking his domestic worker while paying her well below the wage he reported to the State Department and to the U.N.”
Although this case involves a criminal investigation, under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law, domestic workers are also able to directly sue their employers to recover unpaid wages. Domestic workers are those who work for a family, but are not friends or members of the family. Domestic workers are entitled to overtime compensation at a rate of one and a half times their hourly rate for hours worked over 40 hours per workweek if they do not live with the family, and for hours worked over 44 hours per workweek if they do live with the family. Domestic workers may also be entitled to pay for time spent “on-call” and for days when they were dismissed after working less than 4 hours. They must also receive one rest day per workweek and at least three days of paid vacation per year after working for a family for one year.