Julieta Yang, a 45-year-old Filipina woman, has sued Cameron Poetzscher, Uber’s head of corporate development, and his wife, Varsha Rao, Airbnb’s head of global operations, alleging she was subjected to years of sexual harassment by Poetzscher and criminally low wages as a live-in domestic worker for the power couple. Poetzcher and Rao deny the allegations, calling them “completely and utterly false.”
“For many years, I helped raise their children, cooked for them, did their laundry, cleaned their house, and was at their beck and call,” Yang said in a press release.
She filed suit Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court, backed by the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the Women’s Employment Rights Clinic.
Yang worked for Poetzscher and Rao in Singapore from 2008 to 2013 and in San Francisco from 2013 to 2015, after her employers relocated to the U.S.
Filed Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court, the complaint states that Yang quit on April 15, 2015, because of “intolerable working conditions,” including allegedly criminally low wages and “nudity, comments of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual advances, and unwanted touching” by Poetzscher.
The very first night Yang moved in with the couple and their two children in Singapore, Poetzscher, who worked for Goldman Sachs at the time, entered the kitchen naked and “watched [Yang] cook,” according to the complaint. He soon began regularly asking her to massage his back with lotion while he was naked, the complaint alleges.
Yang initially complied, but expressed discomfort as the advances occurred more frequently, according to the complaint.
He sheepishly asked that Yang not discuss his behavior with Rao, but he did nothing to curtail it.
He once demanded Yang “Come watch the kids” so that he could “fuck Varsha [Rao];” he asked her to perform “handwork” and offered her more money if she would “massage” him (she refused).
The complaint alleges other occasions when he “purposely…rubbed his groin against her” and pretended to accidentally “brush against her breasts and thighs while they were together in the car.”
Poetzscher allegedly continued to harass Yang when she moved with the family to the U.S. after Rao began working at Airbnb and, later, Poetzscher at Uber. Rao now traveled constantly, and Poetzscher allegedly took advantage of Yang whenever his wife was away.
The complaint alleges that Poetzscher asked Yang to massage his legs with a rolling pin; that he sat on her bed and inquired her about her previous sexual experiences and “whether she was lonely and needed somebody;” that he persistently knocked on the locked bathroom door when Yang was in the shower and asked if she was masturbating; and that he frequently exposed himself to her, leaving his bedroom door open while he was undressing or the bathroom door open while he was using the toilet.
Yang eventually disobeyed Poetzscher’s instructions to keep these incidents secret, telling Rao that her husband’s behavior made her uncomfortable. But Rao dismissed Yang’s concerns, insisting she “did not have time to talk” and deferring to her husband.
The complaint also alleges that Yang worked more than nine-hour days for six consecutive days a week for a fixed $450-a-week salary and was not permitted to take legally mandated breaks.
She expressed her dissatisfaction with these conditions in August 2014, at which point Poetzscher and Rao presented her with an employment contract stating she would work 35-hour weeks on a $12.50-an-hour salary. The contract also stipulated that she would receive “all legally required meal and rest breaks.”
But Yang alleges her employers didn’t abide by the contract: she continued to work overtime while still being paid a fixed salary and was forced to sign timesheets that didn’t accurately reflect the hours she worked per week.
California legislation requires employers to pay overtime and the state’s minimum wage is $9 an hour.
It was the persistent sexual harassment that pushed Yang to resign in 2015, she says, after Rao repeatedly dismissed the issue.
Rao and Poetzscher married in 1997 in Boston, where they met while attending Harvard Business School. Rao is from Marblehead, Massachusetts, and Poetzscher from Australia.
Poetzscher issued a statement Wednesday through a spokesperson saying that he and Rao were “both deeply shocked and saddened by these allegations—which are completely and utterly false. Julieta worked as our nanny for seven years and was an important part of our family, someone both our children loved deeply. Julieta left in April, and we have not heard from her since then. We will make no further comment about this case.”