Flushing housekeeper accuses employers of subjecting her to indentured servitude

By Gina Martinez

A Flushing housekeeper is accusing her employers of subjecting her to indentured servitude in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court. Hongxia Wang, 57, is suing Derek Enlander over what she contends was forced labor and sexual abuse that lasted from 1999- 2011.

According to the suit, Wang first met Caron Enlander while working at a salon, where Wang was earning $45 a day. Caron agreed to pay Wang $80 per hour for private spa treatments for her and her husband on a daily basis, the suit said. These services included facials, pedicures, manicures, foot washing, eyebrow waxing and massages.
Wang balanced both jobs, working at a salon until 5 p.m. before heading to the Enlanders home in Manhattan at 7 p.m. or 8 p.m., where she was employed until 2 a.m. everyday, the suit said. Eventually, during the summer of 1999 the Enlanders “coaxed” Wang into taking time off from the salon and working for them full-time.

By Thanksgiving of 1999, “the Enlanders had successfully isolated Wang and monopolized all her time,” according to the suit.

By Christmas 1999, Wang had worked over 1,500 hours and had only received one $80 payment from the Enlanders. When Wang asked to be paid, the Enlanders would give her excuses and promised to pay her when business picked up.

“It was beyond Ms. Wang’s imagination that this wealthy, successful couple, who appeared to be self-made through hard, honest work, would scheme to exploit Ms. Wang and deprive her of remuneration for her hard, honest work.” the suit said.

The suit claims Wang continued to work for the couple, but her responsibilities grew. Wang assisted Mrs. Enlander with her jewelry business, making deliveries around town, picking up her lunch, distributing advertisements, polishing jewelry and giving her massages at their desk, the suit said. Wang also performed household chores for the couple, cleaning their apartment, washing dishes, taking out the garbage and making sandwiches, the suit said.

Wang alleges she was a prisoner in their home, living in a climate of “fear and intimidation.”

When Wang did attempt to leave, Caron Enlander would unleash a barrage of insults, threatening to kill Wang or harm her family, the suit said. Caron allegedly told her: “If you leave me and find another job, I’ll find you and kill you,” according to the suit, which said Caronkept a gun with her on her desk and handbag.

Wang also accused Caron Enlander of sexual abuse, which her husband knew about and used against her by calling her a “faggot,” the suit said.

According to the suit, the sexual abuse began in January 2000, when Wang walked out of the shower and Caron Enlander ripped her towel off and began touching her breast and private parts, whispering to Wang that she was beautiful. After Caron’s Enlander’s death in 2006, her husband continued the abuse until Wang fled in August 2011, Wang alleged.

Wang is seeking an unknown amount in damages. She is suing Enlander for involuntary servitude, breach of contract, and forced labor.

Derek Enlanders could not be reached for comment.

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmartinez@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

More from Around New York