WASHINGTON (CN) – Four women “trafficked” to the United States say a Qatari diplomat subjected them to “slavery,” working them “around the clock” as nannies and housekeepers and paying them as little as 55 cents an hour.
The women sued Qatari foreign official Essa Mohamed Al Mannai and his wife, Haya Alkubaisi, along with Mannai’s Qatar-based mother and brother, who allegedly “arranged for fraudulent visas at the U.S. Embassy, made travel arrangements, and sent the women to the United States.”
The federal allegations include human trafficking, assault and battery, fraud, false imprisonment, forced labor and conspiracy.
“The Qatari foreign official defendants forced the plaintiffs to work for illegally low pay in violation of U.S. law and compelled their work through mental and legal coercion, including humiliation and verbal abuse,” the complaint states.
The women say they “worked around the clock without any days off, they were paid only $400 to $500 per month, or between .55 and .69 cents per hour.”
Their stories of how they fell under Mannai’s control describe a conspiracy that involved Mannai’s mother and brother promising them money-making opportunities working for Mannai in his home in Vienna, Va.
One plaintiff says Mannai’s mother scammed her into to going to the U.S. by claiming she would make twice as much as she did working for her in Qatar. When she arrived in the United States, she says, she was immediately put to work “caring for all four Qatari foreign official defendants’ children, cooking the family’s meals, and cleaning the entire house.”
She says Mannai took her passport and sexually assaulted her repeatedly.
Another woman says she signed an employment contract in Qatar before leaving, promising her $7.25 an hour and a 40-hour work week. She says Mannai forced her to care for his son, a 3-year-old who “required round-the-clock care,” leaving her to sleep “on the floor in the child’s room, in a bed with the child, or sometimes on a small bed adjoining the child’s bed.”
A third plaintiff says she “had to use her meager income to pay for necessities such as soap and shampoo.”
“The Qatari foreign official defendants controlled all of the women’s movements, refusing to allow them to go shopping unescorted, go for walks outside the home, or speak or meet with anyone. Defendant Alkubaisi frequently berated and yelled at the plaintiffs, calling them insulting names and criticizing their work,” according to the complaint.
“Falsely imprisoned in the Qatari foreign official defendants’ house, the plaintiffs were unable to identify any means of escape.”
The women say they fled the Mannai house with help from good Samaritans, leaving through windows before sunrise.
“The plaintiffs are all women from impoverished families in the Philippines and Indonesia,” states their complaint. They say what little money they made from Mannai they sent home to their families.
They seek punitive damages from Mannai, Alkubaisi, Wedhad Aldasori Al Mannai (Mannai’s mother), and Hamad Mohamed Al Mannai (Mannai’s brother).
They are represented by Lorelie Masters with Jenner Block.