Choi's AA Enterprises Settles EEOC Lawsuit for $80,000

September 2, 2011

AA Enterprises, which owns MobilMart and gas stations in Tanapag, Chalan Piao and Garapan has settled an EEOC lawsuit. The company will pay $80,000 in back pay and compensatory damages and provide other relief for violating EEOC laws.  The company is owned by Aaron Choi.

Four females employees were made to pay for their own medical expenses related to their pregnancies. Other employees of the business had their medical expenses covered. As has been the case for many pregnant foreign workers the management told the woman they would be terminated if they complained. Two of the women were terminated for filing EEOC complaints.

The EEOC press release:
Saipan Company Settles EEOC Pregnancy Discrimination, Retaliation Suit for $80,000 - Federal Agency Charged AA Enterprises With Forcing Pregnant Cashiers to Pay Their Own Medical Expenses and Firing Them for Protesting

SAIPAN, CNMI — AA Enterprises, Inc., which operates a chain of gas stations in Saipan, will pay $80,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy discrimination and retaliation lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, AA Enterprises singled out at least four female non-resident gas station workers, requiring them to pay for their own pregnancy-related medical expenses while paying for the expenses of employees with other medical conditions. The pregnant staffers were threatened with termination if they did not agree to pay for their own medical expenses, and at least two of the women were ultimately fired by the gas station manager within two weeks of reporting the discrimination to the EEOC.

Pregnancy discrimination and retaliation for complaining about it violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of the Northern Mariana Islands (EEOC v. AA Enterprises, Inc., Case No. CV 10-0024) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The parties entered into a three-year consent decree, requiring AA Enterprises to pay $80,000 in back pay and compensatory damages to the to the affected pregnant staff. In order to prevent future violations, the decree further requires AA Enterprises to implement EEOC-approved anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies and complaint procedures; have annual compliance training for all staff; designate an internal EEO officer; create an internal tracking system to monitor internal discrimination and retaliation complaints; post an EEOC notice on the matter; and report the handling of such complaints to the EEOC.

“Pregnancy discrimination is a continuing problem in the CNMI,” declared Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. “We hope that employers will follow the lead by AA Enterprises in implementing policies and practices needed to ensure the equal treatment of pregnant women in the workplace.”

Timothy Riera, director of the EEOC’s Honolulu Local Office, which directly oversees the territory, said, “Retaliation continues to be an issue in the CNMI. Workers should be encouraged to approach management with their complaints and concerns about discrimination. It is important that employers take seriously their legal obligation to ensure an environment where workers feel free to exercise their civil rights.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

This was a bit misleading.

There are many thousands of businesses in the US that WILL NOT pay for a pregnancy. Some women sign contracts. This happens in Las Vegas and many other cities where women must maintain a certain look and body mass index (fat). There are also businesses that WILL NOT pay for pregnancies no matter what. Can you blame them? Sure it's their right to get knocked up at will (even when they can't afford it)but the employer also has rights. It can be a huge burden.

Wendy Doromal said...

No, it is not misleading because contractually and under CNMI law the employer was required to pay the foreign workers' medical expenses. This includes any medical expenses related to pregnancy and childbirth. The employer told the women if they didn't pay for their own expenses they would lose their job. That is a violation of the law.

Anonymous said...

There are employers on Saipan who have smartly put a clause into the contract. Get pregnant and it is up to the mother to pay up. If there was a loophole in citizenship by birth on US soil you wouldn't see five percent of the current birth rate. Instead, and this happens all the time, women will give birth on Saipan just to gain better status. This should be illegal, fraud.

Anonymous said...

I doubt the new CW visa regulations will require employers to pay for health care for their workers. Employers need to start subsidizing all workers (local and non-resident) health care insurance or stop providing benifits entirely.

The new CW visa will remove some protections of the old CNMI system however it will allow non-residents (even ones making $5/hr)to bring their families and enroll non-resident children in CNMI public schools.

I have no problem with the non-resident women being compensated, but for employers that pay non-resident medical expenses and do not do the same for local workers, I think there is an EEOC issue there as well.

The Saipan Blogger said...

I'm sure Wendy already knows this since she helped uncover some of them, but unscrupulous employers would have employees sign contracts in English that were legal and followed the rules, and then sign contracts in their native language that laid out how things were really going to operate. No boyfriends. Locked up in your room by midnight. Get pregnant, go home. This is one of many reasons why local control of immigration had to cease.

Anonymous said...

No, Angelo, these federal laws have been in effect in the CNMI since 9 January 1978. For more than 40 years the feds have adequately failed to enforce applicable law here prohibitting what you describe.

To the extent such abuses were a "cause" for federalization, it was wholly pretextual by the likes of politically vindictive George Miller, Allen P. Stayman, and David Barrett Cohen.

The CNMI must be punished for having the temerity to hire lobbyists and speak up on their own behalf. Back to the "zoo" for you!

Wendy Doromal said...

Anonymous 9:00

Read the section in P.L. 110-229 that lists the intent of the law. It was not enacted out of vindictiveness, but rather out of necessity. The law (P.L. 110-229, the CNRA) is defective because there is no status provision except for the vague provision stating DOI would write recommendations and Congress would act on the report.That provision did not say that Congress would come up with a NEW U.S. status to be put under the INA that restricts travel, and other basic rights just as the Black Codes did. In fact one of the major intents of the CNRA was to align the CNMI with U.S. immigration laws, not to create separate new laws! That provision did not say that the recommendation would be for SOME of the legal, foreign workers, like ONLY those with a U.S. citizen spouse or child as H.R. 1466 proposes.

If anyone has been punished it has been the U.S. taxpayers that have had to fund a corrupt government that allows for continual abuse of foreign workers, ignores human rights abuses, fails to prosecute criminal cases against foreigners and stubbornly defends laws that are un-American and unjust.

Back to the zoo? What does that mean?

The Saipan Blogger said...

Don't be such a whiny spoiled child. The federal government does not enforce local laws. That is why the full implementation was necessary, so now the feds can do that which my father's generation could not.

Anonymous said...

During the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) era, the primary federal policy was “Strategic Deterrence,” denying the USSR and PRC access to the region, not only militarily, but financially, socially, and culturally.

In the execution of this policy, foreign immigration and investment were generally barred, but the U.S. did not provide substantial infrastructural and economic investment for those 30 years, either, nor permit American investors to do so.

Hence, the CNMI and the rest of Micronesia were maintained as a de facto native “zoo” for United Nations administrators to observe and preserve, but not join the family of developing nations.

When these constraints were cast off, the CNMI naturally overreacted in the opposite direction, causing the great boom of 1985-97.

As for the “whiny spoiled child,” Angelo, look in the mirror.

Again, it is federal law applicable within the CNMI since 9 January 1978, such as the EEO law that is the subject of this blog post, whose widespread violation provided justification for federalization.

Fortunately Wendy and others have been speaking up for decades on the need for adequate resources to enforce all applicable law. With a CNMI Delegate in the halls of Congress, may the activists’ voices be Unheard No More!

P.S. I agree with comment #4 that most businesses in the CNMI will react to financial realities by not offering medical coverage to anyone, CW or local.

“Federalization: You asked for it; you got it.”