Couple Must Pay $750K for Enslaving Servant

     RICHMOND, Va. (CN) – A former domestic servant is entitled to a default judgment of nearly $750,000 from the Qatari couple that forced her to live in inhumane conditions while working as a virtual slave in the U.S., a federal judge ruled.
     In a complaint filed in Alexandria, Va., Federal Court Armiya Bani Lagasan, a 27-year-old Filipino woman, said Hadban and Jimla Al-Ghasel took away her passport and imprisoned her against her will, while forcing her to cook and clean more than 18 hours a day for less than $0.40 an hour.
     Lagasan claimed that in order to keep her in their control, the couple forbade her from leaving the family’s home or speaking to anyone.
     But Lagasan said she endured far more than loss of her freedom and excessively long hours of work for little pay; she said the couple repeatedly denied her medical and dental care, leading to the infection that required the removal of seven teeth.
     She also said she was forced to sleep on the floor of a closet in the defendant’s children’s room, and was often verbally abused when she attempted to take a break from her tasks.
     Lagasan said as a non-native English speaker who knew no one in the United States, she believed she had no alternative bit to continue working and living with the defendants.
     According to her complaint, her ordeal only ended when a neighbor of the defendant couple observed their treatment of their servant and contacted the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
     Last week, U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga entered a default judgment against the couple, adopting the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan.
     Buchanan’s report breaks down the award as $369,606 in compensatory damages, $369,606 in punitive damages, and $10,319 in damages for breach of contract.
     According to a 2013 Trafficking Report by the U.S. State Department, the Philippines a frequent “source country” for forced laborers, while Qatar is a “destination country” for “particularly vulnerable” women unprotected by labor laws.

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