Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gloria Allred, Political Ambulance Chaser

On Wednesday a story broke about the GOP candidate for Governor in California.  Here are the facts as we know them.   Candidate Meg Whitman hired one Nicandra Diaz Santillan, using an employment agency, who it turns out was in the country illegally.   At the time of employment she provided a Social Security Card and California Driver's License as proof of status (verifications of the claims are presented in highlighted portions - to read the original story click on the highlight).   The LA Times says Diaz was paid $23 per hour.  Allred claims that Diaz was "exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused."   But what seems to be undisputed is that Whitman used an employment agency to hire Diaz  and that when Diaz confessed to her that she was in the country illegally, she terminated her.  LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez raises a good point, why did Whitman not report the agency and Ms. Diaz to immigration when she discovered her status.  (It is interesting to note that Lopez seems to have failed to read his own paper's story about the issue - because he claims he does not know what Diaz was paid.)  Allred claims that beginning in 2003 the Social Security Administration sent a series of communications to Whitman but the SSA cannot confirm that.

You may remember that when Arnold Schwarzenegger first ran for governor, Allred came up with a plaintiff who claimed that the future governor had "groped" her.   Unsurprisingly, the case was later dropped.  Allred tried to damage a GOP candidate but after the election the issues raised seemed less important.  See a pattern here?

One of my wife's friends, an ardent democrat, posted to Facebook last night "How could anyone have an employee for 9 years and not know her status?"  Odd question especially based on the documented role of an employment agency in the process.   Does she believe that employers, once gone through the documentation process naturally begin again conversations about whether they are in the country illegally?

From my perspective, there are two key issues in this story.  First, has Allred followed any legal code of ethics on this matter?   By producing the person at the press conference, Allred has highlighted that Diaz came into the country illegally.  That puts her in legal jeopardy.  The timing of this, before a Saturday debate in Fresno with Latino journalists on the panel, just a bit too cute.  Diaz was terminated in June, 2009.  Did it take 15 months for her to find Allred?   Is the purpose of Allred's release of this information at this time political or legal?   My suspicion is that the suit will be dropped quickly after the election but that Diaz will still face problems from the INS.  Allred scored her political point but Diaz lowered her security in the same instance.  Second, is it reasonable to believe that Whitman, if the substance of the claims by her campaign turn out to be true, did anything wrong?   From the press reports Whitman paid her a decent wage and treated her well until the discovery of the status and then did the appropriate thing, which was to terminate her.  It probably would have been smart to notify the INS, but it could be credibly argued that should have been the role of the employment agency.

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