“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
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)