CHICAGO (jGLi) – A Baton Rouge civil court district judge in Louisiana has affirmed an administrative judge’s ruling against a Filipino woman recruiter whose California-based recruiting company was ordered to payan “estimated $1.8 million in illegally charged placement fees, as well as a $500 fine and $7,500 in attorney fees.”
The recruiter allegedly cheated 200 Filipino teachers of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees and held them in virtual servitude for keeping their visas.
A press release emailed Thursday (May 5) to this reporter by Mr. Les Landon, Director of Public Relations of the Baton Rouge-based Louisiana Federation of Teachers, saidEast Baton Rouge Parish Court Judge Janice Clark of the 19thJudicial District issued April 28 an order affirming the decision of Louisiana Workforce Commission Administrative Law Judge Shelly Dick issued on April 14, 2010.
Judge Dick ordered Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, owner of Los Angeles, California-based Universal Placement International (UPI), to pay an“estimated $1.8 million in illegally charged placement fees, a well as a $500 fine and $7,500 in attorney fees” after allegedly cheating 200 Filipino teachers of thousands of dollars in recruiting fees. Navarro was also accused of holding the teachers in virtual servitude when she kept the teachers’ visas.
Although, Judge Clark upheld the ruling against UPI and Navarro last January, it was only last week that a written judgment was issued after attorneys for Navarro and for the Filipino teachers were unable to agree on language concerning the decision.
“This is a validation of the rule of law, and of the commitment by the State of Louisiana to protect the rights of all working people,” said LFT President Steve Monaghan. “We are elated that justice was delivered for these teachers and a strong message was sent to those who might be tempted to profit from such a despicable business."
COMPLAINTS FILED IN 2009
The complaints against the company and Navarro were filed in 2009 on behalf of about 360 Filipino nationals who were hired in Caddo Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, Jefferson Parish and the State Recovery School District in New Orleans.
When some of those teachers arrived in the U.S., there were no jobs waiting for them as promised. Others ended up working in far-off Avoyelles Parish and other school districts around the state.
Navarro was charged with exacting $5,000 from each teacher in job placement fees and obligating each teacher to sign a contract to pay Navarro 10 percent of their second-year salaries.
Teachers who could not afford to pay the fees up front were directed to loan companies by Navarro, and were charged exorbitant interest rates.
The attorney for UPI and Navarro, Murphy Foster III, has indicated that he will appeal Judge Clark’s ruling. Attorneys for LFT, AFT and the Filipino teachers, Dan McNeil and Larry Samuel, expressed confidence that the recruiter will eventually have to pay for its violations of the teachers’ rights.
Email and phone messages sent by this reporter to Ms. Navarro and her lawyer Murphy Foster, III, seeking comments with, were not returned.
In phone conversation with Ms. Navarro by this reporter last year, Navarro saidunder a Louisiana law, recruiters, like her, are entitled to collect a maximum of 25 percent from the first-year salary of a Filipino teacher she successfully recruited to Louisiana. She said she collected only ten percent of the teacher’s first-year and second-year of the salary of the teacher and yet she is being sued for bilking her recruits exorbitant rates.
Under Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Private Employment Informational Booklet (Louisiana Revised Statute, Title 23, Section 101 et seq. effective date Current as amended through the 2008 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature and Louisiana Administrative Code, Title 40, Part XV, effective date March 20, 2002), a job applicant, who gains employment in Louisiana, shall pay an “employment service the maximum of $25,000 and up and shall never exceed 25% (of the year’s gross earning) … but in no case shall the full amount of the fee be mandatorily payable sooner than 30 days from the date of employment.”
“What’s wrong if I collect ten percent on the first year and another ten percent on the second year? If you sum them up, my staggered payment is only equivalent to a maximum of 20 percent of the first year. I wanted to make it affordable for my recruit to pay me my service fees that is why I am spreading the service fees to two years.” Ms. Navarro explained. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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