Lakers star Kobe sued by housekeeper

LOS ANGELES, March 25 - Lakers star Kobe Bryant is facing a lawsuit by his housekeeper, it was announced on Wednesday.

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant reacts after a slam dunk against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter of the NBA All-Star basketball game in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 15, 2009.

The housekeeper who worked in Kobe Bryant's Newport Coast home near Los Angeles is suing Kobe and his wife, accusing them of harassment and verbal abuse, the housekeeper's attorney William K. Vogeler said.

The lawsuit also alleges that Kobe and his wife broke a promise to provide the housekeeper health insurance.

Maria Jimenez, 48, filed the lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court, seeking unspecified general, punitive and special damages, according to Vogeler.

An attorney for Kobe and Vanessa Bryant could not immediately be reached.

According to the lawsuit, Jimenez worked at the Bryant home six days a week, for 10 to 12 hours a day, from September 2007 to March 22, 2008, handling a variety of tasks that included housecleaning, laundry and cleaning up after the couple's children.

After only two weeks on the job, Vanessa Bryant began a pattern of verbally abusing, demeaning, badgering and humiliating Jimenez by yelling, screaming and criticizing her in front of Kobe Bryant, the children and other employees, the lawsuit alleges.

Terms of employment included a salary of 50,000 U.S. dollars a year and medical insurance for herself and her family, according to Jimenez. But when she needed surgery for an ovarian cyst, she found out she had no medical coverage and she had to pay 120,000 dollars, as well as more than 7,000 dollars in medical bills and physical therapy for hurting her back in a fall, according to court papers.

Jimenez claims that when she told the basketball star that she wanted to quit, he persuaded her to stay, and his wife apologized. But she alleges the pattern of abuse picked up again, with insults and accusations of theft.

Jimenez claims the final straw occurred when Vanessa screamed at her for putting an expensive blouse in the clothes washer and then demanded that she put her hand in a bag of dog feces to retrieve the price tag for the garment.

Jimenez refused, saying she was quitting on the spot, but was forced to work until payday to pay for the 690-dollar blouse, according to her lawsuit.

When Jimenez tried to collect unemployment, the Bryants, through attorney Jon Daryanani, opposed it and the claim was initially denied until Jimenez appealed and the decision was reversed, Vogeler said.

Jimenez's claims include wrongful discharge, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of contract and unpaid overtime wages.