LOS ANGELES A former housekeeper to California Republican gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman surfaced on Wednesday to say that the former eBay executive knowingly employed her illegally and treated her poorly.
The Whitman campaign moved quickly to counter the allegations by Nicky Diaz, saying the housekeeper from Mexico lied about her immigration status when she was hired in 2000, providing a Social Security card and other documents that appeared to show she could legally work in the United States.
Whitman also said that in coming forward with the potentially explosive allegations 35 days before the November 2 election, Diaz was being "manipulated" by attorney Gloria Allred, who has been a friend and supporter of Democratic rival Jerry Brown.
The accusations by Diaz come one day after the first debate between Brown and Whitman in a tight campaign in which both sides have courted the Latino vote, and could prove damaging to the Silicon Valley billionaire if they gain traction.
Whitman has worked hard to make inroads with Latino voters, who tend to vote Democratic, in her race against Brown, the former governor and current state attorney general.
At a news conference at her Los Angeles office, Allred said that Whitman never asked Diaz if she was in the country legally when Diaz was hired in 2000 and failed to pay her for all of the hours she was hired to work.
Allred also said that Whitman disregarded letters from the Social Security Administration notifying her that there were discrepancies with the Social Security number Diaz provided.
A tearful Diaz said she came to Whitman in June 2009 for help getting legal status, but that Whitman angrily fired her instead.
The Whitman campaign released a U.S. Immigration and Naturalization employment eligibility verification form signed by Diaz when she was hired by Whitman in which she asserts under penalty of perjury that she is a lawful permanent resident.
The campaign also released copies of the Social Security Card and California driver's license supplied by Diaz at the time she was hired, and an employment questionnaire in which she checked a box saying that she could legally accept employment.
(Editing by Steve Gorman, Jonathan Oatis and Eric Walsh)