Published On: Mon, Nov 14th, 2011

Filipino ‘Guest Workers’ Say They Escaped Enslavement in Louisiana

Seventeen Filipino workers claim that they escaped indentured servitude in the United States after being lured to the U.S. with visas and lies.

The workers were promised an hourly wage of $16.25 an hour with free room and board, however they were allegedly paid as little as $5.50, worked 10-12 hours seven days a week, were forced to stay in small rooms that housed four workers, and charged $3,200 a month for the room, whether they stayed there or not. They claim to have been held hostage and kept from obtaining identification, such as drivers’ licenses, and their Social Security cards were taken away.

The workers sued Industrial Personnel and Management Services of the Philippines, D&R Resources, of Louisiana and its two individual owners, and five other businesses, in Federal Court. They have alleged peonage, slavery, human trafficking, conspiracy and other legal violations. They have also claimed that their bosses went as far as stealing their tax refunds.

The complaint, reported by Courthouse News states:

Plaintiffs submitted applications with IPAMS [Industrial Personnel and Management Services]. They were interviewed and required to undergo a trade test, to determine whether they possessed the requisite skills. During the course of the interview, they were told, inter alia, that, if hired, they would be provided transportation to the United States, housing, food, and would be compensated at an hourly rate of $16.25 for regular time, and $24.37 an hour for overtime. Also, plaintiffs were told that they would receive an E2 visa, which would allow them to work in the United States for five years, and eventually they would be able to obtain a green card for permanent residency.

The major difference between the two contracts pertained to the wage rate.

When the plaintiffs inquired as to the pay discrepancy, they were threatened with deportation. They were also threatened with being reported to POEA [the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration], placed on a ‘blacklist’, and barred from future overseas employment.

The plaintiffs sought the assistance of the Catholic Charities of New Orleans and with the assistance of Catholic Charities; they sought and obtained Continued Presence status from the United States Department of Homeland Security, as victim of a severe form of human trafficking.

They are seeking punitive damages for forced labor, human trafficking, conspiracy, peonage, slavery, and involuntary servitude.

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