- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

SANTA ANA, CALIF. (AP) - Kobe Bryant’s former housekeeper is suing the NBA star and his wife, contending she was “harassed and humiliated,” denied health insurance and forced to quit because of “intolerable” working conditions.

In one instance, Maria Jimenez says Bryant’s wife ordered her to put her hand in a container of dog waste to retrieve the price tag of a blouse.

Jimenez filed the lawsuit Friday in Orange County Superior Court. She says in court papers that Vanessa Bryant “badgered, harassed and humiliated” her in front of Kobe Bryant, the couple’s children and others. She said the couple failed to provide health coverage, as promised when she was hired. She said she didn’t learn she didn’t have it until she became ill and sought medical attention.

The action seeks unspecified general, punitive and special damages, as well as back pay and overtime Jimenez says she is owed. The lawsuit was first reported by tmz.com.

The Bryants’ lawyer, Mark D. Campbell, issued a statement Wednesday calling the allegations “totally unfounded and patently false.”

The 48-year-old Jimenez said in court papers she is owed more than $20,000 in earnings that were wrongly withheld, as well as unpaid overtime and penalties for not being paid properly.

After she left her job with the Bryants, Jimenez said she asked again about the medical insurance, which she said had not been purchased as promised. She said she subsequently incurred more than $127,000 in medical bills for a back injury and surgery to remove an ovarian cyst.

Jimenez wasn’t fired but her lawyer said she was wrongly discharged because Kobe Bryant’s wife made it impossible for her to continue working at the couple’s Orange County home.

“She quit but because the working conditions were intolerable,” attorney William Vogeler said Wednesday. “We allege it was a violation of labor laws that protect people from working in unhealthy situations.”

In court papers, Jimenez says she went to work for the Bryants in September 2007 and left in March 2008. Almost immediately upon starting work, “Vanessa began a continuing pattern of verbally abusing and demeaning her.” Jimenez said she was called lazy, slow, dumb, a liar and was cursed and screamed at.

After Jimenez told Kobe Bryant she wanted to quit he talked her out of it and elicited an apology from his wife, court papers said. But then, she said, the abuse began again.

According to the papers, Vanessa Bryant screamed at Jimenez for putting an expensive blouse in the Bryants’ clothes washer. “Then Vanessa demanded that Maria put her hand in a bag of dog feces to retrieve the price tag for the blouse.”

Although she gave notice, Jimenez said, Vanessa Bryant demanded that she work until her next pay day to cover the $690 cost of the blouse. Jimenez said she did.

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