More Labor Pains

February 13, 2010

The CNMI Department of Labor is being sued in Superior Court for refusing to issue a transfer to Fea de la Torre. DOL "volunteer" Deanne Siemer issued an order denying the transfer and acting DOL Secretary of Labor Cinta Kaipat affirmed the decision.

In September 2009 Fea Dela Cruz La Torre filed a complaint in the US District Court of the NMI against Japan Enterprises Inc. dba Club Micronesia alleging sexual harassment. She is a former employee of Club Micronesia, which is managed by Takayuki Umeda.

In October 2009 De Torre's attorney Colin Thompson filed an amended complaint and request for a jury trial. The complaint details the "job duties" of waitresses in many of the karoke bars or clubs on Saipan. From the complaint:
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, failed to investigate or take remedial action, and instead 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 permit 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, 2004.
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.

Attorney Timothy Bellas, representing Japan Enterprises, filed an answer to the complaint denying the charges and listing 14 reasons including: "failure to state claim, periods of limitations, failure to meet statuary requirements, lack of standing, unjust enrichment, and unclean hands. He also claimed that her recovery is in whole or in part blocked by CNMI worker's compensation laws which provide the exclusive remedy for the claims made. I had no idea worker's compensation laws were addressed sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Judge's order indicates that Ms. de Torre will be waiting at least until November 2010 for the case to go to trial. The DOL decision appears to be a vindictive act -- intentionally not allowing a person with a legitimate case to find work to support herself while awaiting trial.

Attorney Thompson requested that the Superior Court reverse the Seimer and Kaipat DOL decisions. From the Saipan Tribune:
The petitioner requested the court to allow her to transfer to a new employer and order Labor to issue her temporary work authorization while the case is pending in court.

Thompson said La Torre has the right to transfer relief pursuant to the statute because she was constructively discharged and she complied with the provisions of the contract to the extent practicable as required.

Thompson stated in the complaint that La Torre was hired in June 2004 from the Philippines to work for Japan Enterprises which owns Club Micronesia.

The lawyer said Club Micronesia required La Torre to meet and sit with customers who visited its establishments and to allow the customers to sexually harass her.

“As a result of the harassment and the employer's failure to remedy it, the petitioner was constructively discharged on July 8, 2004,” Thompson said.

La Torre filed a discrimination case against Club Micronesia with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in July 2004.

EEOC wrote a letter to La Torre on March 21, 2005 to inform her that “there is reasonable cause to believe that charging party and females as a class were subjected to sexual harassment and constructively discharged because of their sex, female.”
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.
Bellas defended the industry in his comment to DHS which can be read at this post, Government Regulations: Some comments on worker categories subject to sexual exploitation.


Anonymous said...

When contract workers had an appreciation night, and so many were taking bows, Colin and Jane M. were overlooked for their many legal contributions.

Anonymous said...

All of those sleazy clubs are guilty, there alien owners are pimps, and DHS must sweep them out with the trash.

This is another reason for the CW/investor tranistional worker programs.

We can't pass out green cards until we can identify and deport the trash first.

Anonymous said...

6:38 Yes, some who deserved appreciation truly were left off the very, very long list. Then there were others who were recognized who sure had me scratching my head.

Anonymous said...

Another Labor Pains...

When will Ms. D stop her "divine voluntary intervention"? Aging Pains! Is it legal? She is unstoppable! Can somebody stand up against her?