Whitman’s ex-housekeeper files claims for unpaid wages

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The furor over Meg Whitman’s employment of an illegal immigrant continued to roil the California governor’s race Tuesday, with her former housekeeper filing a claim with the state seeking unpaid wages and attorney Gloria Allred denying claims that her involvement has been funded by Whitman’s political enemies.

Nicandra Diaz Santillan, who worked for Whitman from 2000 to 2009, disputed Whitman’s assertions that she is a pawn of those who oppose Whitman’s run for governor. She said she chose to come forward to shed light on the plight of undocumented workers who live in the “shadows.”

“Meg Whitman was wrong when she said somebody put a gun to my head. Nobody did. I spoke out because I want people to know who Meg Whitman really is,” Diaz Santillan said at a news conference at Allred’s Los Angeles office.


The celebrity attorney filed a claim with the state Department of Industrial Relations seeking unpaid wages and mileage reimbursement, but declined to release the details about the claim. The department said Diaz Santillan’s claim asked for $6,210.

Whitman’s employment of Diaz Santillan became an issue in the governor’s race last week after the housekeeper alleged that Whitman knew that she was in the country illegally and only fired her in 2009 because she had become a political liability during Whitman’s run for governor.

Allred produced a 2003 letter from the federal government to Whitman and her husband that stated Diaz Santillan’s Social Security number did not match her name; the letter bore handwriting believed to be that of Whitman’s husband, neurosurgeon Griff Harsh.

Whitman has said she hired Diaz Santillan through an employment agency, saw what appeared to be legitimate documentation and fired her after the housekeeper came to her in 2009 and told her she was in the country illegally.

The GOP candidate has tried to shift the focus of the controversy by arguing that Democratic rival Jerry Brown or his labor allies are behind the emergence of Diaz Santillan. The woman she described as a member of her “extended family” now faces potential deportation because of Brown’s political ambitions, Whitman has alleged. She provided no direct evidence of Brown’s involvement, and he has denied any connection.

Diaz Santillan shot back at her former employer Tuesday.

“I knew the risk of speaking out and I was afraid for my family. Despite my fear, I decided to come out from the shadows, the shadows in which millions of people live every day,” she said. “Meg Whitman, don’t say I was part of your family because you never treated me like I was.”


The Whitman campaign continued to paint the matter as a diversion.

“It’s time for Gloria Allred to pack up this circus and leave town because there are serious challenges facing California and voters deserve to hear solutions, not smears,” spokeswoman Andrea Jones Rivera said.

During the news conference, Allred declined to say who had referred Diaz Santillan to her, a refusal she said rested on long-standing firm policy. In an interview, she disputed the Whitman campaign’s claims that Brown or labor are funding her representation.

“I haven’t accepted any payment from any third party nor has it been offered,” she said.

Another former Whitman employee, Jill Armstrong, said she does not doubt Diaz Santillan’s claims. Armstrong worked as a nanny for Whitman for two months in 1998, and said she quit because she found conditions untenable. Armstrong said Whitman balked at paying the wages she had agreed to, and that she had to threaten to go to the IRS to get the former EBay chief to provide tax paperwork.

Armstrong, a Democrat, said she has had no contact with Brown’s campaign. After hearing about Diaz Santillan’s story, she said, she contacted the Santa Clara County Democratic Party and asked how she could publicize her story. A party official told her they would “take care of it,” and Armstrong was contacted by a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, which published her account Tuesday.