The former housekeeper of California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was honored at an immigrant rights gala in Los Angeles Thursday.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, which organized the event, says Nicky Díaz Santillán's situation is similar to many undocumented immigrant household workers.
The Mexican-born Díaz Santillán made headlines during California's gubernatorial election after her lawyer, Gloria Allred, claimed the housekeeper was "exploited, disrespected, himiliated and emotionally and financially abused" by Whitman. Díaz Santillán, who is an undocumented immigrant, claimed Whitman knew about her status during the nine years she was employed, which the republican gubernatorial candidate denied.
The former E-bay CEO said she was unaware the housekeeper was in the U.S. illegally until the woman volunteered the information in 2009, after which she fired her. In all, the woman made $23 an hour and the lawsuit settled for $5,500.
Whitman had portrayed herself as tough on immigration and had proposed fining those who employed undocumented immigrants. The discovery – uncovered just months after announcing her gubernatorial intentions – opened Whitman up to criticism that she set different standards for herself.
The immigrant rights group is pushing for a state domestic workers' rights bill like the one that passed in New York last year requiring overtime pay for nannies, housekeepers and companions to the sick.
Critics believed Díaz Santillán's lawsuit lacked extensive documentation, and had political motivations because of Allred's Democratic ties, which left her open to questions about motive. Allred once gave money to Brown, and she was a Hillary Rodham Clinton delegate at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
The California Nurses Association helped Díaz Santillán make her story public, which helped sink the first-time Republican candidate.
Others being honored include retired Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony and actress Rosario Dawson.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.