CHICAGO –The First Circuit Court of Appeals of Louisiana affirmed on July 26 a ruling of a Baton Rouge civil district judge who had earlier ordered a Filipino woman recruiter to pay an “estimated $1.8 million in illegally charged placement fees” from Filipino teachers.
In affirming the ruling, a three-judge panel composed of Judges Edward J. “Jimmy” Gaidry, J. Michael McDonald Jefferson D. Hughes III in Baton Rouge, stated Universal Placement International (UPI) of Los Angeles, California had violated the Louisiana Private Employment Services Law when it operated as a private employment service in Louisiana.
UPI renders employment services in California. It contracted to employ Filipino teachers in Louisiana school district, procured and transmitted immigration documents, arranged housing, signed lease agreements and obtained financing for the teachers’ expenses “in exchange for the payment of fees by the teachers.”
In September 2009, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers filed a complaint against UPI with the Louisiana Workforce Commission for violation of the Private Employment Service Law.
The commission later found out that Universal was operating a private employment-service firm in the state of Louisiana without a license to do so. UPI also collected “marketing fee,” placement fees and employment services fees and failed to adjust its fees upward or downward based on actual gross earnings of the teachers.
Judge Janice Clark of the Baton Rouge’s 19thJudicial District said the recruiter cheated 200 Filipino teachers of thousands of dollars in recruitment fees and held them in virtual servitude for keeping their passports.
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 US, there were no jobs waiting for them as promised. Others ended up working in far-off Avoyelles Parish and other school districts in 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 go to loan companies and were charged exorbitant interest rates.