The former housekeeper for a public affairs diplomat at the Kenyan Embassy is accusing her former employer of holding her as a domestic slave inside her Rockville townhouse.
An attorney for Lucy Mwaka, 23, filed a breach of contract against the diplomat, Waithira Njuguna, who serves as a secretary of public affairs at the Kenyan Embassy, for allegedly underpaying Mwaka and forcing her to work long hours without promised vacation time.
Sheena Wadhawan, Mwaka’s attorney, wrote in a letter to Njuguna also addressed to Kenyan Ambassador Jean Kamau that Njuguna failed to pay her housekeeper contracted wages of $8.84 per hour between June 2010 and March 2014. Instead, wrote Wadhawan, the diplomat paid Mwaka just $250 per month, never permitted her to take any vacation days and forced her to routinely work from 6:30 a.m. until at least 11 p.m. The letter also states the diplomat would loan the housekeeper out to other Kenyan embassy officials to clean their homes and cook for them.
“These periods were particularly onerous because Ms. Mwaka would have to maintain Ms. Njuguna’s household simultaneously, including preparing meals, which would have to be packaged, labelled and frozen for Ms. Njuguna’s convenience in advance,” Wadhawan wrote in her letter. “Ms. Mwaka was often made to cook large quantites of Kenyan food, including handmade rotis, for Embassy officials. Embassy officials would routinely ‘place orders’ for Ms. Mwaka to prepare them homemade Kenyan food.”
Now, Mwaka is offering to settle her claims against Njuguna and the Kenyan Embassy for a payment of $210,000, which is an estimate of the back pay owed to her, according to Wadhawan.
Mwaka spoke to WAMU 88.5 in a report posted today. She told the radio station that her former employer threatened to deport her if she ran away.
A person who answered the phone at the Kenyan Embassy Wednesday morning said Njuguna, who works as a public affairs and communications specialist for the embassy, was in a meeting. Njuguna did not immediately return a request for comment this morning.
Mwaka managed to escape the Waddington Lane townhouse in March, according to WAMU. She came to the U.S. in 2010 from Kenya to work as a nanny and housekeeper for Njuguna.