Defense hurls anti-Semitism charges in labor dispute between Marichu De Sesto and Manhattan socialite

A rally in support of domestic worker Marichu De Sesto outside her former employer’s Park Avenue apartment building. Photo: Damayan

A rally in support of domestic worker Marichu De Sesto outside her former employer’s Park Avenue apartment building. Photo: Damayan

By Cristina DC Pastor

Anti-Semitism charges were injected into the labor dispute between domestic worker Marichu de Sesto and her former employer Elyse Slaine when lawyers for the defense accused the Filipina of “enlisting the assistance” of anti-Zionist activists to “intimidate, harass” the Park Avenue socialite.

“Ms. De Sesto is well aware of the fact that Ms. Slaine is Jewish, and that she is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor,” according to court documents filed by defense lawyers Jeffrey Kimmel, Mitchel Schuster and Howard Davis of Meister Seelig & Fein LLC.

Still, the lawyers argued in their April 22 response, De Sesto “intentionally and knowingly enlisted the assistance and appearance of individuals and organizations at the ‘protests’ and public smear campaign against Ms. Slaine, which individuals and organizations have a strong and well-known history of publicly espousing anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist views and opinions.”

De Sesto of Lakewood, New Jersey has filed a case against Park Avenue couple David and Elyse Slaine after she said she was terminated in 2014 because she had asked permission to go for a medical check-up. David was then a Wall Street executive working for Galleon Group hedge fund management firm.

De Sesto was hired by the Slaines on July 10, 2000. Although the couple divorced in 2008, she continued to work for Elyse Slaine as the nanny for her daughter and as a housekeeper for the family’s Park Avenue residence and their summer house in the Hamptons. She worked a total of 14 years.

Her daily duties, according to court papers she filed with the Southern District of New York, consisted of “cleaning, including mopping, doing dishes, emptying trash, and dusting all surfaces…washing and ironing clothes and bedsheets; feeding and administering medication to defendants’ dogs; running errands, including purchasing groceries, cosmetics and other items; filling prescriptions; and serving as courier for documents; cooking meals, or serving takeout meals; and turning down defendants’ bed at night.” She said she was paid $170 a day, which was raised to $200 a day in 2013.

In her lawsuit, she is claiming the following: Unpaid overtime wages; Unpaid earned wages; Failure to provide pay stubs; Breach of contract, among other charges, all in violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York State labor laws.

On October 29, 2014, labor rights advocates from Damayan Migrant Workers Association and Justice First and supporters of De Sesto held a rally outside Elyse Slaine’s Park Avenue building asking that she be paid her back wages of at least $75,000. In some of the placards, Slaine has been characterized as a “wage thief.”

Slaine’s lawyers framed the defense within the context of the protest rallies they said “cause(d) Ms. Slaine extreme embarrassment, trauma, and severe emotional distress.”

“Demonstrations continued outside of Ms. Slaine’s Manhattan residence on a daily basis which consisted of chants, and mass distribution of fliers in front of Ms. Slaine’s building and throughout her neighborhood,” say the court documents. “Moreover, threatening posts were made on social media, which posts included Ms. Slaine’s home address encouraging mobs of people to show up in front of Ms. Slaine’s home until Ms. Slaine ‘pays up.’”

The defense further alleged that the group Justice First, which spearheaded the rally with Damayan, has ties with anti-Zionist organizations.

According to the court filings, “Ms. De Sesto arranged for Ben Becker to sign a threatening letter sent to Ms. Slaine’s home on behalf of an organization known as Justice First. Mr. Becker also personally appeared several times at the doorsteps of Ms. Slaine’s apartment building to hand out libelous fliers about Ms. Slaine…

“Mr. Becker is the regional organizer for the A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition, founding member of the PSL (Party for Socialism and Liberation), cofounder of Justice First, and was the organizer/speaker at numerous anti-Zionist rallies, including an anti-Zionist rally in Times Square last year in which signs with swastikas were prominently displayed, and at which Israel was compared to the Nazi regime.”

The defense denied the charges of unfair labor practice, stating that De Sesto is a live-in domestic worker and therefore exempt from the labor laws cited and the overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“Plaintiff was not entitled to overtime payment because she never worked 44 hours or more in any given week,” according to court documents.

The defense also claimed an overpayment of more than $50,000 to De Sesto, suggesting “intentional misrepresentation” on her part. They provided the court a listing of check payments to De Sesto, some showing two checks paid on certain days. Slaine is therefore seeking damages of no less than $50,000.

“Ms. De Sesto knowingly engaged in a campaign of harassment including…organizing protests, including a marching band for hire and extreme special interests professional protest groups with the intent to cause, or reckless disregard of the likelihood that such conduct would cause, extreme emotional distress to Ms. Slaine,” said the defense.

This article is a follow-up to The FilAm’s Investigative Reporting Project series published in March.

Part1: Housekeeper sues Wall Street socialite for unpaid wages of over $75K

Part 2: Marichu De Sesto was not terminated; she quit: lawyer

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