Mairi Nunag-Tañedo et al. v. East Baton Rouge Parish School Board et al.
Hundreds of Filipino guestworkers lured to teach in Louisiana public schools were cheated out of tens of thousands of dollars and forced into exploitative contracts by an international trafficking ring run by labor contractors.
A federal class action lawsuit was filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of more than 350 Filipino teachers working in Louisiana under the federal H-1B guestworker program.
The suit accuses officials of two labor contractors – Universal Placement International, based in Los Angeles, and its sister organization, Manila-based PARS International Placement Agency – of human trafficking, racketeering and fraud. The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, several school officials and a California lawyer were also named as defendants.
Nearly all the teachers had to borrow money to pay exorbitant recruiting fees; the recruiters referred them to private lenders who charged 3 to 5 percent interest per month. Teachers were forced to pay additional fees after they had already made substantial financial investments that would not be returned. The recruiters confiscated their passports and visas until they paid.
The teachers were also forced to sign away an additional 10 percent of the salaries they would earn during their second year of teaching. Teachers who resisted signing the contracts were threatened with being sent home and losing the thousands they had already paid. The recruiters also charged fees for arranging substandard housing and threatened teachers who complained or sought to move to a new location.
The American Federation of Teachers and the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP