Saipan Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

September 27, 2009

Fea Dela Cruz La Torre, individually and on behalf of all those similarly situated, filed a complaint in federal court against Japan Enterprises Inc. dba Club Micronesia for sexual harassment. She is a former employee of Club Micronesia, which is managed by Takayuki Umeda.

The case details the "job duties" of waitresses in many of the karoke bars or clubs on Saipan. From the complaint:
4. All female employees of Defendants during the relevant time period who were sexually harassed in violation of Title VII.
11. Defendants required Plaintiff to meet and sit with customers who visited its establishments and to allow the customers to sexually harass Plaintiff. This harassment included allowing customers to touch and fondle Plaintiff's breast and vagina.
12. Plaintiff objected and complained about allowing customers to harass her in this manner. Plaintiff complained to Defendants' management. Management rejected her complaints and directed her to permit customers to sexually harass her in the above described manner.
13. Defendant continued to subject Plaintiff and other female employees of Defendant to harmful and offensive touching.
14. Following Plaintiff's complaints to management, co-workers and other employees of Defendants engaged in a course of harassing and retaliatory conduct against Plaintiff. Such conduct included verbal and physical abuse of Plaintiff because Plaintiff did not want to pennit customers to sexually harass her.
15. The conduct of Defendants and Defendant's management, agents and employees as set forth above made the working conditions so intolerable that Plaintiff was forced to leave her employment on July 8, 2009.
16. More than thirty days prior to the institution of this lawsuit, Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging violations of Title VII by Defendant. Plaintiff fulfilled all conditions precedent required prior to instituting this action.
The complaint states that the plaintiff was subjected to "sexual advances, requests for sexual conduct, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature as well as insults, jokes and other verbal comments and physical contact or intimidation of a sexual nature."

The complaint alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, an award of back-pay and front-pay with pre-judgment interest; an award of compensation for past and future non-pecuniary losses resulting from the unlawful practices described above, including relocation expenses, job search expenses, and medical expenses; an award of compensation for past and future non-pecuniary losses resulting from unlawful employment practices complained of, including emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, lost of enjoyment of life, and humiliation; an award for punitive damages for malicious and reckless conduct, reasonable attorney's fees; liquidated damages' temporary work authorization; and transfer relief.

Japan Enterprises has had previous charges filed against their business
in 2004 for unlawful exploitation of a minor, and three counts each of employment of an illegal alien, harboring of an illegal alien, immigration fraud, solicitation, conspiracy, and aiding, abetting and encouraging illegal entry. From a 2004 Saipan Tribune article:
Eric O'Malley, the CNMI's immigration enforcement attorney, filed with the Superior Court 19 criminal counts against 33-year-old Takayuki Umeda and Japan Enterprises Corp., which does business as Club Micronesia.

O'Malley said the nightclub employed at least one underaged girl from June to July 2004 and let her “engage in prohibited conduct.”

The prosecutor said the defendants facilitated the girl's entry from Manila, the Philippines, to Saipan through forged documents. He accused the defendants of harboring the girl despite knowing that she was staying in the Commonwealth illegally.

He said the defendants knowingly subscribed as true a false statement in applying for the girl's nonresident worker's permit. He said the defendants made the girl subscribe as true alleged false statements on these documents.
A Saipan jury acquitted the owner of the charges in 2005. From the Saipan Tribune:
The Superior Court yesterday acquitted a businessman and his nightclub on charges that they employed illegal aliens and exploited at least one minor who worked as exotic dancer.

Associate judge Ramona Manglona discharged 33-year-old Takayuki Umeda and Japan Enterprises Corp., which does business as Club Micronesia, from any liability.

A jury handed down an all-not guilty verdict on 18 charges each against Umeda and the nightclub. The court earlier dismissed two counts of unlawful exploitation against Umeda and the nightclub.
Wonder what happened to those alleged victims?


Anonymous said...

Komodo owns and operates this club and others including Happiness, Mermaid, Club Micronesia, and Body Motion.

He is a Saipan Chamber of Commerce member and yakuza yes man and is seeking a US visa for himself and 20 partners, presumably exotic employees he houses around the corner across Beach Rd. from the Garapan Promenade. He borrowed, or is trying to borrow, money to mae his CNMI 2 million dollar visa to include 20 partners.

This character should be sued until this situation is over.

Anonymous said...

Hear that DHS? Please do not just issue investor visa to scum we have here just because they have $$$$

Anonymous said...

Didn't Tim Bellas defend a similar lawsuit against Club Micronesia a few years back?

Anonymous said...

Oh. That was the bottom half of your post.

Anonymous said...

Not a DHS problem. There are many clubs operating in the US, fifty of them are in the DC area alone!

captain said...

What it seems is that some people do not understand the roll of the "Bar Girls" This category does not exist under the "H" visa. I believe under the OFW also and are non recruitment jobs under Phil. law. (mail order brides is also illegal in the Phil)
These girls are recruited by individuals, either the owner of a club in Saipan (or other areas), or an agent.
These girls (99.9%)are working the bars already and are "bar fine" girls (prostitutes) that go with the
customers for average $20.(all night)These girl go into the bar jobs in Saipan with open eyes. There are also "short time" girls that work the "local" small bars and truck stops and other rest areas like the bus stops.
These bars in certain areas in the Phil. are owned and operated by the Foreigners that are married to Filipina's
If you ask the owners, they make more money from the "bar Fines" than selling drinks.

This 1000 peso is split with the owner and the girls hope to make more with "Tip" from the customers for good service.
These girls that are hired for Saipan (and other places)go into the job with their eyes full open and with the hope that they can support their families back home and or find a US husband and a green card.

These girls are also recruited for Japan as "dancers" by agents. Their contracts are for 6 months only at a time due to Japan's immigration laws.
The new hires are taught the Japanese dance, language and ways of "pleasing a man"
There is usually a high fee recruitment associated with this job as Japan pays very high employment wages for their services.
They also recruit many other nationalities, US, European etc.
The girls can return to Japan to work after a waiting period.

The employment of these girls in Saipan up to a certain year in the NMI was legal ad worked in the open until a law was passed against prostitution then it went under ground.
In this particular case, it is questionable why this girl waited for 5 years. It s also interesting that this was filed 4 days before her thirty day expiration after her non contract renewal.
This employment happens in Hawaii also along with all of the US mainland.
In Hawaii it is usually a girl that had married (now divorced) a US Military guy that he had "fallen" in love with after many "paid" encounters from the "A" sign bar in his overseas duty area..

Now could have anything to do with so many "off island" trips by our elected with high "Per Diem". The public is paying for their fun while nothing gets done at home.

I know I will get some "flak" from Wendy on this one, but fire away.
Wendy may also have some better inside info (than I do) from the Phil. (and other) area that may enlighten us more in this area.

Anonymous said...

Philippine law does not allow women to accept work abroad that will require them to strip, participate in prostitution or other sex industry positions.

The CNMI should not allow such filth either.

Anonymous said...

The feds will not allow it as a job for transition program workers.

Anonymous said...

You would think every girl would sue given the current immigration climate and improved chances of success through the court system...the federal court system that is.

Anonymous said...

What are they going to sue for, they accepted an employment contract (legaly)in the NMI and it is still legal until during the transition period. Then their contract renewal won't be honored by the Feds and they will be sent home or, depending on the new regulation be able to apply for another type of job.

Anonymous said...

From the CNMI Protocol for Implementation of Pub. L. 110-229, at 46 (Sep. 21, 2009):

“PL 110-229 repeatedly uses the term “legitimate businesses” in connection with the assessment of the needed labor force. This is a particularly discriminatory provision as concerns women in the workforce. Many women cannot work at full-time jobs without domestic help for child care and elder care. Households are not “businesses,” so the assessment of the labor force needs, if conducted strictly in conformity with the law, would exclude the need for workers to provide child care and elder care. The Commonwealth requests that all of the labor needs of the Commonwealth’s economy be assessed fairly.”

Strip clubs are not “legitimate businesses,” though, even though denial of their workers' renewal will disproportionately affect women.

Wendy said...

Hi Captain

I am a little confused by what you said. Did you say that 99.9% of the women working in clubs had worked in clubs previous to their overseas employment? If I am reading that right, you are absolutely incorrect. While some may have, most of the women recruited into the sex trade or to work in clubs overseas are hired as waitresses and are not told their ""job duties". Sadly, some minors are sold into the trade by parents. So no, "most" do not go into the job with open eyes.

That is unless the business has totally changed. When I was in Saipan in 2007 and 2008 we had guys checking the women and girls in the clubs. Most had no idea that their job description would include entertaining jerks that exploit women. Many had their movement restricted during their off hours. If you want to hear about women in clubs talk to Sister Stella and Laurie Ogumoro.

captain said...

I will try this again as I lost the feed, and lost my comment.

If what you are saying is true about abuse, then I stand corrected as what you say, things may have changed since I was involved years ago.
On my frequent travels to Asia, mostly Phil. and Thailand. I was often accompanied by friends or acquaintances that were looking for ladies to work in their clubs in Saipan and Tinian.
I had contacts and a driver etc.

My driver would scout out the places and contact the prospective employee.
All of the girls that were hired were told up front that there job would be the same as what they were doing at the time with the exception of being "Bar Fined" out of the club. (prostitution)
This went on for many years. To my knowledge not one of the girls that we hired had filed any complaints.
The biggest complaint my friends had was that they had to keep recruiting replacements as more than half of the girls found boyfriends and husbands within the first four months of employment.

Many transferred to the "boyfriends" family as a house worker so they could live with the BF and get out of the bar, and then later some sought out help as they were abused by the families, many returned to the former bar.

There is no reason for any of the abuse that you are stating as there are so many girls available working in bars that are willing to relocate.
I can see where the problems would arise if some of these owners are using recruiters and then get under aged and "inexperienced" girls, the Saipan bar owner then tries to work them into the system and abuses them as they resist(not condoning it)
There was never a fee for any of the ladies that were recruited by my friends.

This girl that is filing a complaint after 5 years of working in a bar, just 4 days before her 30 day period is up to find a new employer is suspicious.
Where was she working before, in her country before she got the job in the bar in Saipan.

I have had bars (clubs) over the years in Okinawa,Amamae Oshima, Phil,A Samoa,Western Samoa, and Hawaii.(not at the same time)
I employed nationalities from the respective countries including girls from Vietnam, Korea and Thailand. I have never had any problems getting workers or keeping them.
I had personally make sure that these girls are not mistreated. I have had someone employed that does not answer to anyone but me. His only job is to protect the girls from a possible abusive "Mamason" and customers.

As you are aware of,these Asian countries do not have much employment opportunities, you need a college education, single with no kids, and between the ages of 21 and 28 years old, just to work at a SM mall(or other malls (or store) in the phil. as a sales clerk.
You need to have a family with money to go to college, so this means money begets money. The poor do not have a chance for any of these higher paying jobs.

There are also many girls with college education working in bars now as they got pregnant or no jobs available and layoffs.(PhIl.)

cactus said...

I can dig what you're saying, Captain, but cannot agree with this part:

"This girl that is filing a complaint after 5 years of working in a bar, just 4 days before her 30day period is up to find a new employer is suspicious."

To me, that part of it, at least, is not suspicious. People will put up with all kinds of bull**** for years without complaining so long as they still have steady work. It's just a question of priorities. A last-minute complaint does not necessarily mean, "I'm out of time so I'd better cook up a lie." More often it means, "I've got nothing left to lose from telling the truth."

Unfortunately, a lot of people at CNMI Labor (who really ought to know better) also tend to regard late filing as a reason to doubt the credibility of the worker. There may be reasons sometimes, but that is not one of them.

JJB said...

Bravo, Cactus!

Anonymous said...

Was this girl working in a bar before she came to Saipan to work in a bar? That would be an indicator on her current action.

the teacher said...

I thought Captain's comments were straight and right on. Cactus also gave a valid reason for last minute legal actions. I don't know the women or the case which is the subject of this post, but the Philippines is so financially challenged it would be very easy to recruit girls for any type bar business.

No citizen here wants underage girls working in an abusive situation, but stories of Saipan's sex trade industry are quite old and don't depict Saipan in 2009. The handful of adult entertainment places remaining, probably have many applicants for few positions.

The lockdown was true in the past but doesn't seem to be happening in this economic/immigration climate. The Chicago girls are visible around town but they don’t appear locked down and they are usually texting sailors at high speed with both hands. I could be wrong, but I imagine Sister Stella could confirm that. At least, if someone is locked down, please, by all means tell us where and I will report them myself.

I am sure a person could recruit 100 girls in PI in one day even if you told them they would be stripping and prostituting themselves, so I don't understand why a recruiter would need to misrepresent that fact.

Anonymous said...

Please, sexual exploitation continues at the clubs as it always has. The economic downturn has meant these girls and women are paid even less and exploited even more.

Anonymous said...

Juan Pan recruiting agency, Paras Recruitment, is the recruiter for Komoda and its night clubs/bars. His company also process the renewal of work/entry permits of these ladies. Check Labor Dept.

Anonymous said...

That should be one salutary consequence of federalization -- a halt to recruitment for such "jobs."

Saipan Writer said...

I want to add a bit to what Cactus said.

A lot of the "women" working in strip joints were recruited when they were very young. We've had numerous instances of girls in their teens (and younger than 18) being brought to Saipan to work in these clubs, on forged documents. Almost none of them have prior experience. They're recruited with promises that prey on their naivete and desire to improve their lot in life.

Sometimes they pay huge recruiting fees, going into debt, to secure their new jobs.

When they get here, they have no one to turn to. And they're often told that they will be in trouble. The employers use threats and locks to keep them in place. And also that promise of payment and a future "bonus" that they're supposedly saving up for them (based on the number of ladies' drinks they sell). The "women" are completely dependent on the employers. They're ashamed their families will find out the truth. The psychological and physical "chains" keep them in place.

There's not room to complain. It's bad.

Sometimes it takes a bit of growing up for these women to finally come forward and tell what's been going on. Sometimes it takes time.

Saipan Writer said...

I didn't say this above-but I disagree with Captain that these girls/women go into the jobs with their eyes open. Maybe some do, but a lot don't.

the teacher said...

I have no sympathy for any of the club owners, but looking around in 2009, with labor and immigration takeover immanent, it doesn't seem like brothels are flourishing here anymore. I thought we only have several prominent ones operating in Garapan...isn't that correct?

None want to see impoverished employees being taken advantage of, and Saipan is infamous in this industry, but now the sex trade business seems to be collapsing as fast as the former garment industry. Your comment may be correct SW, but PI has millions of girls wanting this type work, so why would someone use an unwilling worker when the willing would be much more profitable?

captain said...

It is also a fact (first hand)many of these Saipan bar girls are "turning tricks" on their own. Independant from the employer. Many of the club owners do not openly condone prostitution. Many do, But the girls that were recruited from the clubs in the Phil, Thailand,and China this is a way of life. They go to the cities from their province, or far away from their own home to do this as to not to let their families know about it.
Many hope to find a "rich" foreigner for a husband, Many do.

I would have suggested to Wendy to go around to the bars with her husband next time in the Phil. and question these girls, but thinking about it, these girls will not talk to a foreign woman and will stay away from any male that enters with a woman. Same goes on any nationality bar, even in Hawaii, Korean, Japanese, or other bars with the different nationalities.

What will probably happen later on in Saipan, like Hawaii,the girls that will end up in the bars, besides a few locals, will be divorcees with green cards or girls that are sponsored to the US by their sister,aunts, brother etc.

Teacher and other are correct, if you ask one bar girl to go to work in Saipan they will tell all the others and you will be swamped with applications. there is no shortage, most want to prostitute for the extra cash.
By the way we are talking about bars but majority of the girls that work in the big hotels and restaurants will go out for the price also. I have even been propositioned many times from the sales girls in the big malls.

There are clubs in Manila that let any girl hang out. Nightly there are more than fifty sitting together waiting for a call from the waiter or one of their friends that connected with a bunch of tourists and need another girl or two.The girls do not work for anybody, they do their own thing out of the Club.
Their agreement is to have a customer buy so many drinks or they pay a table charge. there are no waitresses, they are all waiters employed at the that club. (bouncers)
Wonder where these girls on Saipan will end up as there are so many on a waiting list to go to Japan to work.

By the way when Dynasty initially opened with a full staff of, I believe it was, 1800 people, there where over 200 "call girls" that worked on the payroll.
There price at that time was $250 a night, now the ones that are there (8) are $375 a night.
During tournaments many come from Saipan and hang out looking for "tricks"
I guess it is hard for a women working in the field that these sisters and Wendy is in, to really be able to get close to the over all picture as these women only talk to the other women when they are in trouble.
Of the ten that need help, there are more than 200 still doing their own thing.

I will concede that there is some mistreatment of some of these girls.
The point being, is that there is no excuse on the club owners part to have to do this as there is an unlimited number available that is/are willing to work in this field from any place in Asia.

Anonymous said...

Teacher said Philippines has "millions of girls wanting this type of work." Actually few "want this types of work." That is a false stereotype.

Anonymous said...

It looks like plaintiff's lawyer Gil Birnbrich doesn't know the difference between a vulva and a vagina.

If they were literally fondling her vagina that would be full digital penetration, hard to believe and much worse than mere fondling.

But that's obviously the unsophisticated lawyer's error, not the plaintiff's.

Wendy said...

I am a little surprised by some of the responses here! I will answer with an entire post this weekend.

caotain said...

Noni 6:47. Teacher did not say "millions" he said 100. If you are going quote do it correctly. This is correct for you people not in the "real world".

This is not an unusual thing for any of the Asian girls. It is not sex to many, it is a way to get out of their "misery". It is like taking a shower. What ever is needed for their family to survive.
I respect Wendy and Jane.( and others)
You folks are very much not in the "loop" I am not trying to put you in conflict, BUT you have to Wake up, Most (100%)of these girls are not "victims" in the Phil..or other areas.
Next time WQendy, you go to the Phil. I would like to know. I would like to meet you there.(If my schedule permits).
I can open you eyes.
This goes for Jane and any body else who believes that these girls are "blinded" or "forced"into this "trade"
Any time you want to know more, U post your contact mail and I will give you much inside info.
Have a nice day.

the teacher said...

I said one could recruit 100 willing women in PI in one day. I further said "PI has millions of girls wanting this type work" and millions may have been a stretch and hundreds of thousands closer...or is it? Will accept this type work may be better and 11% of the country is working abroad and no country would match their contributions to the sex trade industry. I know some become defensive if you say anything about the Philippines...but I try to keep it real. By PI standards, Saipan and the Northern Marianas Islands do not have a big sex trade industry. It was worse in the past, and Garapan has about a 5 to 10.

KAP said...

A lot of countries have thousands (or millions) of desperate people who will do just about anything. That's why there are laws.

Question: would any of you say rape is ok if "she asked for it"?

the teacher said...

When 1, 5, or 10 innocent girls accept hostess positions in Japan and are then coerced into the sex trade business, it is abuse. But when hundreds of thousands are sent off into this industry it is planned by their government and accepted by their own families for money. Sugarcoat it any way you like but the Philippine government will not stop it because if they did, remittances would plummet.

The United Nations must agree with me, as they have warned PI repeatedly and written strongly worded letters opposing this practice to no avail. Let’s be straight, there are only several type jobs abroad for young uneducated inexperienced females, and families and the government know that waitresses and domestic maid positions are not that lucrative.

But that is the Philippines. In the CNMI we are close to wiping out this business. Rota has little or none. Tinian has one location of prostitution, the Tinian Dynasty, which is likely losing money and will be wiped out by federalization. We have a dozen or so operations in Saipan and 500 or so Chinese girls walking the streets. If immigration eliminates the hustlers, federalization will end the rest, most are purported to be owned or operated by the same guy.

We can only worry about cleaning up one place, our home, and that is the CNMI, and in our commonwealth, the sex trade industry in the CNMI is on the run and nearly done!!!

the teacher said...

PS This is one of the reasons I oppose Chinese visa waivers. Chinese don't allow Americans visa waivers, we don't get family oriented tourism from them, they have US Consulates in every city we receive tourists from, they are statistically frugal tourists, their presence here in business would eventually eliminate any Chamorro or Carolinian culture left here, China is not an aesthetically or environmentally oriented culture, and their presence here will certainly prohibit US military activity spending in the CNMI.

Our Russian tourists pose no security risk to America, are the first affluent tourists we have ever had the opportunity to host, and offer enormous potential here.

KAP said...

I'd agree with a couple of your statements about the Chinese as tourists, but it doesn't sound like you've met any. I've met a few that weren't bad at all ($-wise, tho not like the Russians). The marine sports people seem to like them. You're confusing tourists with false-tourist scammers.

Not family-oriented? I disagree.
Not an aesthetically or environmentally oriented culture? I disagree.

And don't be so naive about the Russians. The Cold War is long past, but we're not singing Kumbaya together. Witness their recent submarine patrol off of the U.S. East Coast just for old-times' sake.

We've gotten some Chinese and Russian grafts on the family tree. They're just people.

the teachers said...

Kap, I agree that they are not all bad and people like everyone else.

But, statistically, the immerging middle class in China are proving to be some frugal spenders...even HANMI acknowledges that fact.

As for environmental issues, I have been to Beijing and in the south. 5 minutes in Beijing will have you blowing black soot out of your nose...and I have been there. It is the most air polluted place I have ever been, and LA, Mexico City, or Manila don’t compare.

I’m sure they are very family oriented, but regarding their travels to Saipan, they don’t bring the families. They have primarily visited TD, I would guess for gambling or adult entertainment.

As for the loss of local culture overshadowed by a larger country, that is true, and reduced military spending here is certain with visa waivers granted to China.

I don’t think the entire military build-up here is a done deal.
Hawaii, with 2 Democratic Senators and a US President, is vying hard for at least a share of this as we speak.

bigsoxfan said...

Nice to see the guys open up on this subject. I'm sure Wendy's weekend post will take everything written into account. Glad I got in and out while the getting was good, as the big mouths have ruined it for all time. I quess, the final outcome will be more incoming tourists to the PI as they don't seem to manage much.

Anonymous said...

33-year-old Takayuki Umeda is not Komodo, he is Komodo's assistant, or he looks to be the fall guy as Komodo is in his 50's, not 33.

Anonymous said...

All of the bloggers are firing out opinions that show that none of them talk to these girls working in these clubs. While it is true they do not know what the job entails when they are recruited, most of them are told stories about the job from girls who return home after two years of working. If you ask them how they were recruited, you will be surprised to find out that they were referred to the job by friends or family members who tell them to apply. Life is so hard for them that they envy the money that is sent home to the families of the girls working in Saipan. They see the large homes being built in their barrios by the girls working on Saipan.

Most, if not all the girls working for these clubs on Saipan come primarily from the province of Pangasinan. A few are from Nueva Ecija. But if you bother to talk to them, their backgrounds are all basically the same. Lived in the province all their lives, desperate, and willing to endure any hardship short of death to work in that environment to improve the lives of their families in the Philippines.

I can tell you that most of the allegations in Ms. Dela Torre's lawsuit are probably true, however, the choice to allow customers to do what they want is still up to the girl sitting with that customer. Even as naive as these girls are, they still have a sense of morality taught by their parents that they should resist these types of advances.

Now the problem. Proving Ms. Dela Torre's claims. She needs witnesses and if they try to interview the current employees, they will say that none of Ms. Dela Torre's allegations are true. The employees are probably having meetings with management's minions drilling into them what they are supposed to say if they are questioned. There a bunch of former employees of these clubs who have since married and now reside on Saipan or on Guam. Ms. Dela Torre's lawyer should try and find these former employees and interview them. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Respect them even thou they are working at the club!

Anonymous said...

I know that Ms.Dela Torre is telling the truth.I have a friend before she's working on one of that club, when she is working there she is emotionally,verbaly and physically abuse by the others girls who also work on that club .Some of the girls that working on that club is only 15,16 or 18 of age they get passport with other names so that they will issue them a working permit and Mr.Komoda's wife Ms.Rita Tandoc a filipina hired all the girls from there province.

Anonymous said...

Another Saipan Pimp makes good

To update this post, Takiyuka Umeda, Komodo, was arrested yesterday in Pangisinan, Philippines on multiple charges including online prostitution and human trafficking and 95 girls were rescued. He is part of a syndicate that lures old Japanese men to PI for sex. He has operations and property in Saipan and was acquitted od 18 charges including trafficking minors to the CNMI in 2005. And is, or was a distinguished member of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce