Fil Am Recruiter’s Bid To Avoid Refunding $1.8M Fees To Teachers Denied

by Joseph G. Lariosa

 

CHICAGO (jGLi) – The Supreme Court of the State of Louisiana in New Orleans on Friday (Nov. 9) denied without comment the application for writ of certiorari and/or review filed by Filipino American Lourdes Navarro and her Los Angeles, California-based Universal Placement International as they sought to avoid refunding $1.8-Million in placement fees collected from 360 Filipino teachers recruited to work in East Baton Rouge Parish and other public school system in the state.

Louisiana’s highest court refused to hear Universal Placement’s appeal of a ruling of the state’s First Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge, affirming a 19th Judicial District Court ruling in the Parish of East Baton Rouge that UPI, which is licensed to do business in California, did not have a license to operate a private employment service in Louisiana.

Email message sent by this reporter to UPI’s Lourdes Navarro and her lawyer Don A. Hernandez for comment was not answered. They have 60 days to file an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Louisiana Workforce Commission, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and Avoyelles Parish Filipino Teachers had asked the First Circuit to reject UPI’s appeal of Administrative Judge Shelly Dick’s 2010 order that UPI refund the Filipino teachers’ placement fees. Judicial District Court Judge Janice Clark later affirmed Judge Dick’s order.

“We’re glad that this matter is finally settled,” Baton Rouge’s The Advocate quoted AFT lawyer Dan McNeil Friday. “The teachers look forward to Universal returning to them the money that it collected illegally.”

NO EXCESS OF AUTHORITY

When UPI director Hotello “Jack” Navarro testified that he solicited Louisiana school district and submitted proposal to supply teachers for them, both by telephone and in person in Louisiana with “no license to operate,” Judge Edward J. “Jimmy” Gaidry of the three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court said the Louisiana Workforce Commission did not exceed its authority as the Commission “is not divested of its legislative mandate to regulate and license (Louisiana’s) private employment services.”

UPI and Navarro complained that when they applied for a license to operate an employment placement service in Louisiana, their  application for license was denied based on their failure to “maintain office in Louisiana” and their failure to “designate an individual as the on-site manager.”

The Circuit Court did not address the constitutionality of the Louisiana law, Louisiana’s Private Employment Services law that also provides that “no employment service shall charge or receive a fee from an applicant prior to the actual commencement of work on a job procured by the employment service.”

Even before the Filipino teachers left the Philippines, UPI and Navarro had charged each teacher “$5,000 in job placement fees and obligating each teacher to sign a contract to pay UPI and Navarro 10 percent of their second-year salaries.”

The law also provides that “a fine of not more than $500 can be levied against the employment agency, reasonable litigation expenses may be award and a refund to the applicant may be ordered.”

TEACHERS CHARGED FEES BEFORE LEAVING PH

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 U.S., there were no jobs waiting for them as promised. Others ended up working in far-off Avoyelles Parish and other school districts around the state.

Teachers who could not afford to pay the fees up front were directed to apply for loan from companies referred by Navarro and were charged exorbitant interest rates.

In phone conversation with Ms. Navarro by this reporter two years ago, Navarro said under a Louisiana law, recruiters, like her, are entitled to collect a
maximum of 25 percent from the first-year salary of a Filipino teacher she successfully recruited to Louisiana. She said she collected only ten percent of the teacher’s first-year and second-year of the salary of the teacher and yet she is being sued for bilking her recruits exorbitant rates.

Under Louisiana law, a job applicant, who gains employment in Louisiana, shall pay an “employment service the maximum of $25,000 and up and shall never exceed 25% (of the year’s gross earning) … but in no case shall the full amount of the fee be mandatorily payable sooner than 30 days from the date of employment.”

“What’s wrong if I collect ten-percent on the first year and another ten-percent on the second year? If you sum them up, my staggered payment is only equivalent to a maximum of 20-percent of the first year. I wanted to make it affordable for my recruit to pay me my service fees that is why I am spreading the service fees to two years.” Ms. Navarro explained. (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

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