Courts side with guest workers in exploitation schemes

Filipino teacher Cindy Serrano (cq) assists Juan Caamano (cq) (left) with an in class exercise during her biology class at Heizer Middle School. Serrano taught for five years in the Philippines and is in her second year of instruction in Hobbs, NM.

Guest worker programs have long been shadowed by middlemen: the brokers, recruiters and labor contractors who serve as a bridge between workers abroad and employers in the U.S. While some charge a reasonable fee to deliver necessary services, exploitation is prevalent.

Main story on this topic: Foreign teachers pay dearly to fill empty N.M. jobs

Several court cases have taken down unscrupulous guest worker schemes. Among them:

 

  • In 2012, a federal jury awarded $4.5 million to Filipino teachers who paid a California placement agency up to $16,000 for $40,000-a-year teaching positions in Louisiana public schools. A jury found that the recruiter failed to properly disclose fees to 350 teachers.
  • A 2011 settlement required the public school district in Maryland’s Prince George’s County to reimburse Filipino teachers $4 million, after a U.S. Labor Department investigation. The investigation found that the district required 1,000 teachers it hired to pay H-1B visa and other fees the school system should have handled.
  • In 2004, the superintendent of an El Paso, Texas, school district was indicted in federal court on racketeering charges in a scheme to hire Filipino teachers on behalf of a recruiter who charged the teachers excessively high fees. Many of the jobs never materialized. The superintendent pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of failing to report gifts to a public official.