For some domestic workers, a life of isolated servitude

Toiling behind closed doors, domestic workers are vulnerable to wage theft, abuse, and in the worst cases, virtual slavery.

News Story (Massachusetts)

Megan Woolhouse, Beth Healy
Boston Globe
September 6, 2015

Tags: Employment, Wage Theft, Workers Rights

Organizations mentioned/involved: Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS)


An estimated 67,000 of them work in Massachusetts — equivalent to the employment in Boston’s finance industry. Most are treated fairly and paid lawfully by their employers.

But because they toil behind closed doors, these workers are vulnerable to wage theft and other mistreatment, say legal advocates and law enforcement authorities. And for immigrants, who comprise about one-third of this work force, the challenges are greater. Many put in grueling hours and are paid less than minimum wage, while being denied basic rights like time off.


After once spending 15 days straight in the house without being allowed to leave, de Resende said she was depressed and wanted to quit. Her lawyer, Lydia Edwards, a fellow at Greater Boston Legal Services and formerly with the Brazilian Immigrant Center, took her case to then-Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office and to the US Department of Labor.

“What’s to stop employers from just perpetually bringing someone over here and not paying them at all, or paying them very little?” Edwards said. “And saying, ‘Well, if you don’t like it, go back to Brazil.’ ”