(Baton Rouge – May 5, 2011) A Baton Rouge district judge has affirmed an administrative law judge’s ruling in favor of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and Filipino educators who were victims of an illegitimate California-based recruiting firm.
In a judgment issued on April 28, 19th Judicial District Judge Janice Clark wrote “The court hereby confirms the decision of the Louisiana Workforce Commission rendered on April 14, 2010 by Shelley D. Dick…”
In that hearing, the Workforce Commission judge ordered Universal Placement International and its principal, Lourdes “Lulu” Navarro, 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.
Judge Clark upheld the ruling against UPI and Navarro last January. Last week’s written judgment came 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."
The allegations 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.
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.
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.