A Los Angeles-based teacher recruiter has been ordered to pay some $4.5 million in damages to hundreds of Filipino teachers whom the company recruited to work in Louisiana public schools and whom it allegedly charged thousands of dollars in illegal fees.
Universal Placement International brought some 350 teachers into the country from the Philippines on "guest worker" H-1B visas. The teachers, in a class action brought by the American Federation of Teachers, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the law firm Covington and Burling, said they were charged $16,000 in placement fees, had portions of their salaries docked, were forced to live in substandard housing, and had their visas and passports confiscated.
A federal court jury agreed.
"The jury sent a clear message that exploitative and abusive business practices involving federal guest workers will not be tolerated," Dennis Auerbach, the lead attorney on the case from the law firm, said in a statement. "This decision puts unscrupulous recruitment agencies on notice that human beings—regardless of citizenship status—cannot be forced into contracts that require them to pay illegal fees."