• In the US: An Indian-American CEO charged with harsh treatment of domestic worker

    Sheela Ningwal, a domestic service worker in the United States, was allegedly forced to sleep with dogs and starved for several days by Himanshu Bhatia, an Indian-American CEO of an IT staffing and consulting firm. On August 22, a report was filed against Bhatia in US District Court for the Central District of California. She has been charged with harsh treatment of her domestic worker, who had come from India to work for her.

    The Department of Labor in its complaint accused Bhatia, the CEO for Rose International and IT Staffing for mistreating Sheela, who was in her employment from July 2012 to December 2014. Apparently, Bhatia paid only $400 plus food and housing to Sheela for working fifteen and a half hours every day, seven days a week in violation of labour laws at her home in San Juan Capistrano and other luxury residences in Miami, Las Vegas and Long Beach, California, the Press Trust of India reported.

    Also read: Sexual harassment & violence: When systems let us down

    According to the reports, Sheela was kept hostage and subjected to abuse. She was forced to sleep in the garage on a piece of carpet alongside Ms Bhatia’s dogs when she was ill and apparently, Bhatia left her without the food several times. In addition, Bhatia also confiscated her passport, restricting her free movement  and only allowed it when she had to travel for some domestic service duties at Ms Bhatia’s penthouse in Miami.

    Also read: How we used WhatsApp to combat domestic patriarchy

    When Sheela acted upon and researched about the “labor laws” online, and after she refused to sign in a document Bhatia authored, which stated that she was paying her an adequate salary and had no employment dispute with Ms Bhatia, it was then when Bhatia terminated her from work, the complaint said.

    Also read: How Nimaya is bringing domestic dignity to women

    The department’s Wage and Hour Division found that Ms Bhatia violated the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage and record keeping provisions from July 2012 to December 2014, as well as the act’s anti-retaliation provision. In California, employees are protected against workplace retaliation i.e. employees being subjected to discrimination or harassment for filing complaints against the organisation.

    Feature Image Credit: ndtv

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