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US Immigration

Posted 04/17/2010
Louisiana Workforce Commission Issues Ruling on Teachers Lawsuit

Pinoy recruiter to repay $1.8 million in illegally charged fees

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) has issued a ruling in a case initiated by the filing of a complaint by the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers against Universal Placement International, Inc. (UPI), a California-based teacher placement service.

After a hearing, an administrative law judge found on behalf of the LWC that UPI did not have a license to operate in Louisiana and ordered the company to repay fees that it improperly charged to teachers it had placed in Louisiana school districts.

“We're not going to tolerate the unlicensed and improper business activities found in this case," LWC Executive Director Curt Eysink said.

“This case underscores the need to vigorously enforce our statutes so that licensed businesses can operate on a level playing field and so that the people who are placed are treated fairly."

“This is more than just a victory for the Filipino teachers who were abused by the company,” said LFT President Steve Monaghan. “It is a validation of the rule of law, and a commitment by the State of Louisiana to protect the rights of all working people”

Responding to allegations filed by the American Federation of Teachers and the LFT, Administrative Law Judge Shelly Dick has ordered Universal Placement International to repay Filipino teachers an estimated $1.8 million in illegally charged placement fees, as well as a $500 fine and $7,500 in attorney fees.

The Commission will also refer the case to appropriate authorities for criminal sanctions against UPI and its owner, Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro.

“The LWC's decision goes a long way in relieving these excellent teachers from an illegal and oppressive relationship” said AFT attorney Dan McNeil, who argued the Federation’s case. “This ruling will allow them to freely pursue their personal and professional aspirations.”

The allegations against the company and Navarro were filed last fall 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.

Some of those teachers arrived in the U.S. to find that the promised jobs were not available. Eventually some wound up in Avoyelles Parish and other school districts around the state.

Each teacher was charged about $5,000 by Navarro in placement fees to obtain a job, and was then required to sign a contract obligating them to pay 10 percent of their second year salaries to the company.

Teachers who could not afford to pay the fees up front were directed to loan companies by Navarro, and were charged exorbitant interest rates.

In addition to collecting the fee from teachers, Navarro was paid $47,500 to recruit twenty five teachers by the State Department of Education to recruit teachers for the Recovery School District in New Orleans.

According to the ruling, each teacher is to be repaid the initial placement fees because they were collected “prior to actual commencement of work” in violation of Louisiana law.

Because Louisiana law only allows recruiting firms to collect fees on the first year of employment, the teachers cannot be required to pay a percentage of their second year’s salary to UPI, the ruling states. (reports from LWC / AFT)

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