A Kuwaiti diplomat and his wife regularly beat and abused three domestic workers who were kept under conditions akin to slavery before they finally escaped, according to a civil lawsuit filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of the three workers by the American Civil Liberties Union, also names the Kuwaiti government as a defendant for enabling the alleged abuse carried out by its employee.
The lawsuit claims violations of labor laws, anti-trafficking laws, as well as the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery. It also states that the couple used diplomatic immunity to avoid criminal charges.
The three women, originally from India, said they came to the United States in the summer of 2005 to work as domestic help for Maj. Waleed Al Saleh, an embassy attache, and his wife, Maysaa Al Omar. The workers were promised monthly wages of $1,280 to work a six-day, 48-hour week, according to the lawsuit.
Instead, the women were regularly subjected to physical abuse and constant duty taking care of the couple’s home and four children, including year-old triplets. The women were allowed out of the McLean home only once a month to attend church services.
The lawsuit alleges that the women only received a fraction of their promised wages, which were sent directly to family members overseas. The couple took the women’s passports from them.
The alleged abuse included death threats, pulled hair, and beatings – including one with a box of frozen chicken.