The brother of former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger barely paid live-in help at his Huntington Bay estate and forced them to live in a “substandard” guest cottage, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday.
Elizabeth and Kevin Cogan, now living in West Islip, are seeking at least $1 million in back pay, overtime and damages from Walter Kissinger, according to the suit, filed in U.S. District in Central Islip.
Kissinger, 91, hired the couple in November 2007 as “domestic servants” for the retired businessman and his wife Eugenia, who died in 2014, the lawsuit said.
The Cogans were asked to perform a variety of jobs at the Lower Drive home, including tending to a garden, wallpapering inside the estate and personal assistant duties, the suit says.
The Cogans claim in the lawsuit Kissinger paid them only twice in their more than eight years of employment.
The suit says Kissinger paid Elizabeth Cogan $2,500 for the four months she cared for Kissinger’s ailing wife in 2012 and an additional unspecified amount for “intensified” personal care in 2014 for him.
Elizabeth Cogan left earlier this year and her husband stopped working for Kissinger in December, the court papers said.
For the “benefit” of the employer, the suit said, the couple was required to live in a cottage that did not justify the withholding of any money from wages because it was mold infested and had faulty plumbing and electrical systems.
But Kissinger, the former chairman of the Allen Group automotive business, said he and his four children, also named as defendants, are “indignant” over the suit.
“It was never an employer-employee relationship,” Kissinger said. “We exchanged some housekeeping for the house they lived in and we were away for a good deal. It was an exchange in value for . . . living there for the better part of nine years. They had their kids there and many other privileges.”
The property was sold about a month ago, he said, and if the cottage was not in good shape, that was a reflection on the Cogans.