Côte Saint-Luc woman ordered to pay $41K in damages to live-in nanny

The Quebec Human Rights Commission has sided with a Filipina live-in caregiver and ordered she be awarded $41,600 in damages by her former employer.

Commission says employer violated the rights of Gelyn Dasoc-Hilot, who came from the Philippines in 2012

Gelyn Dasoc-Hilot says she was hired to work 40 hours a week as a live-in nanny for a Montreal family. Instead she worked 65 hours a week, with unpaid overtime, and faced threats of deportation. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

The Quebec Human Rights Commission has sided with a Filipina live-in caregiver and orders she be compensated $41,600 in damages by her former employer.

Gelyn Dasoc-Hilot left the Philippines in 2012 for a better life in Canada.

She arrived in Montreal with a work permit and a job lined up: she was hired to take care of a Côte Saint-Luc woman's four children.

But she didn't expect she'd be working, at times, for free.

"I work at 8 a.m. or 7 a.m., and I finish at 10 or 11 o'clock," she said. "But they only pay me a minimum."

Dasoc-Hilot said her responsibilities also included, cleaning, cooking, washing the family vehicles, caring for pets and doing the yard work.

She said her contract stipulated a 40-hour work week, but she worked 65 hours.

The overtime was not paid.

Dasoc-Hilot said when she asked to be paid, her employed threatened to have her deported.

"She told me that she's going to send me back to the Philippines. So I was crying at that time."

Dasoc-Hilot quit after two months and turned for help to the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), which brought the case forward to the Quebec Human Rights Rights Commission

In its ruling, the commission stated that Dasoc-Hilot's former employer "refused to pay the victim a salary for her first two weeks of work, while she was learning about her tasks … and threatened to call immigration services to send her back to her native country."

It ordered Dasoc-Hilot's former employer to pay her $41,600 in moral and punitive damages. Of that amount, $5,000 is for "an illicit and intentional" violation of Dasoc-Hilot's rights.

CRARR director Fo Niemi said this kind of story speaks to how vulnerable foreign care givers are to their employers. (CBC)

CRARR director Fo Niemi said it's all too common for employers to exploit the federal live-in caregiver program.

"These women are very vulnerable, because they are women, they are foreigners and they don't know their rights," Niemi said.

He's calling on the the government to take more aggressive action against abusive employers.

"This kind of violation basically shows that the employer has basic, almost absolute authority over these woman caregivers and that's what we need to change because, otherwise, we're going back to the practice of indentured labour."

The commission's ruling is not binding, but if the woman decides not to pay, the case can go before a human rights tribunal.

Dasoc-Hilot says she's willing to pursue that avenue so that other Filipina women in her situation get treated like employees, not servants.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said it's up to the federal Labour Ministry to enforce working conditions.

However, the spokesperson said it's working to improve access to permanent residency for caregivers.

With files from CBC's Simon Nakonechny