Monday, May 23, 2016

11 OFWs win $15.3-M lawsuit vs. LA bakery owners

Eleven Filipino workers allegedly forced to work under abusive conditions won a $15.3-million lawsuit against their employers, according to a report on the LA Times.
Named respondents in the lawsuit filed March 2015 were Analiza and Goncalo Moitinho de Almeida, owners of L'Amande French Bakery who were accused of labor and wage violation.
The decision was handed down by US District Judge Fernando Olguin on May 2, the report said.
Christopher Lapinig, the OFWs lawyer, said in a statement that the ruling will hopefully make clear to "exploitative employers" who resort to "unlawful activity to escape accountability for their labor abuses" that they may "no longer act with impunity".
report on the Daily Breeze said the couple must pay the following:
• More than $3.7 million in compensatory damages for human trafficking and $1.25 million for violating the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
• More than $3.7 million in punitive damages for human trafficking and $1.25 million for FEHA violations.
• More than $1 million in statutory damages for wage and hour law violations;
• $200,000 for statutory damages for violation of California’s whistleblower and retaliation law.
• More than $1.2 million for damages under the RICO Act.
• More than $2.8 million in attorneys’ fees.
It added that the judge also voided the couple's transfer of their home.
According to the workers, the couple promised them work as "skilled bakery chefs and managers" but were put into “oppressive and discriminatory conditions as domestic servants, physical laborers engaged in landscaping and building maintenance" instead.
The 11 Filipino plaintiffs said they worked14-hour workdays on a rate of $3 per hour with no days off at the two branches of L'Amande.
The couple also allegedly ordered a reimbursement of $11,000 for their travel and E-2 visa fees unless they commit to working for three years.
Analiza, earlier identified by the Daily Breeze as Ana Santos, initially denied the "blatant lies" told by their Filipino workers.
She added, "I have treated them like family, shouldering many of their financial needs including educational, medical, dental, disaster relief, clothing and housing needs, for decades." Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

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