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Diplomat Has Immunity From Servant’s Claims

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Lebanese diplomat and his wife have diplomatic immunity from their former domestic servant's lawsuit that claims she was paid less than minimum wage, faced regular verbal abuse and was forbidden from leaving the house, a federal judge ruled.

Araceli Dotarot Montuya claimed Antoine and Afife Chedid forced her to work 15-hour days, six days a week, for less than minimum wage.

She argued further that the Chedids were not entitled to diplomatic immunity because of the commercial activity exception of the Diplomatic Relations Act, but U.S. District Judge James Boasberg disagreed.

Boasberg also struck down the commercial-activity argument as it relates to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

"Although the Court here finds diplomatic immunity and holds the commercial activity exception inapplicable, the Court is cognizant of the potential injustice to people in Plaintiff's position," Boasberg wrote Tuesday.

He cited an appellate decision that states the "apparent inequity to a private individual is outweighed by the great injury to the public that would arise from permitting suit against the entity or its agents calling for application of immunity."Montuya claimed she signed an employment contract for $6.72 per hour, plus overtime, but she ended up working 77 hours a week and for just $500 per month. She also claims the Chedids intimidated her, insulted her and illegally confined her to the house.

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