A New York federal judge ordered a nursing agency and recruiter to pay $1.56 million on Tuesday, for threatening the Filipino nurses they brought to the U.S. with large fines if they prematurely left their jobs.
Breach of contract: Prompt Nursing Employment Agency LLC, which conducts business as Sentosa Services, was found to have violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and broken its contract with threats to harm the nurses financially, reported Bloomberg Law.
- Presiding judge Nina Gershon decided that the nurses were entitled to compensatory damages in addition to the $1.56 million, both with pre-judgment interest at 9% per year.
- Gershon, however, noted that the plaintiff might “recover compensatory damages for breach of contract or violations of the TVPA, but not both.”
- While the judge denied the nurses’ request for a summary of award of equivalent punitive damages, she will be leaving the decision to the jury.
What happened: Sentosa Services brought the nurses to the U.S. as nursing home staff in New York, with a contract stipulating that they will pay $25,000 in liquidated damages if they left before their first year’s end.
- Rose Ann Paguirigan filed the case in 2017 on behalf of over 200 nurses and won the lawsuit back in 2019, reported the Philippine Star.
- Paguirigan presented evidence that the nurses were not paid the wages in their employment contracts, were threatened with “serious harm” to prevent them from leaving and were “required to work in unsafe conditions with inadequate staffing.”
Filipino nurses in the U.S.: During the American occupation of the Philippines, the U.S. Army established a nursing education system for Filipinos patterned on the U.S. curriculum.
- Today, many Filipinos who took nursing courses look for job opportunities in the U.S. and other western countries in hopes of better work conditions and relatively higher salaries.
- In 1929, Filipino nurses in New York established the Philippine Nurses Association –New York to promote cultural understanding and streamline professional guidance to other Filipino nurses.
- Despite this long history, Filipino nurses have become among the most vulnerable health care workers in the U.S., particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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