California court rules in favor of Filipino teachers in Louisiana

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Several years after the Louisiana Federation of Teachers filed its first complaint about the exploitation of Filipino teachers hired to staff classrooms in our state, a California jury has fined the recruiting company that brought them to the United States $4.5 million.

The lawsuit filed on behalf of about 350 Filipino nationals claimed that Universal Placement International of Los Angeles and its owner, Lulu Navarro, forced the immigrant teachers to sign “exploitative contracts” and then required them to pay large sums of money to guarantee teaching jobs in the U.S.

In 2010, an administrative judge for the Louisiana Workforce Commission ruled in favor of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and Filipino educators who were victims of UPI and Navarro.

Responding to allegations filed by the American Federation of Teachers and the LFT, Administrative Law Judge Shelly Dick 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 suit filed in California – home base of UPI – said that hundreds of Filipino teachers arriving in the U.S. were subjected to a "system of psychological coercion and intimidation."

Following a two-week trial in the U.S. Court for the Central District of California, jurors agreed with attorneys for the American Federation of Teachers and the Southern Poverty Law Center that UPI had indeed treated the Filipino teachers unfairly, and awarded the plaintiffs $4.5 million in damages.