L&T Group of Companies Charged with Numerous Types of Employment Discrimination
SAIPAN, CNMI – L&T Group of Companies, Ltd., the largest employer and conglomerate of garment manufacturers in Saipan, has agreed to pay $1.7 million and to provide far reaching and significant injunctive relief to settle a series of lawsuits filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that charged the company with retaliation and discrimination based on national origin, pregnancy and age, all in violation of federal law.
The three-year, court-enforced consent decree will resolve four EEOC discrimination lawsuits against the employers and their affiliates: Tan Holdings Corporation; Tan Holdings Overseas, Inc.; Concorde Garment Manufacturing Corp.; Micro Pacific, Inc.; Seasonal Inc.; and L&T International Corp. The EEOC filed the cases in U.S. District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. The consent decrees, signed by U.S. Federal Court Judge Alex R Munson on July 28, 2009, resolve the lawsuits filed by the EEOC in the Federal District Court.
“This major settlement shows that the EEOC will vigorously protect the rights of all workers, within every reach of our jurisdiction, to be free of discrimination,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The resolutions of these egregious cases bring a measure of justice to the many workers who were retaliated against and otherwise victimized by discriminatory employment practices because of their national origin, age, or pregnancy.”
In the first case against L&T, Civil Case No. 06-0031, the EEOC alleged that the employer retaliated against 14 Filipino and Bangladeshi workers when it terminated them because they filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC. The allegations in the case also included that Bangladeshi security guards were being treated differently than Nepalese with respect to assignment of overtime hours, work location, and housing. Further, the EEOC said the defendants discriminated on the basis of national origin by providing different amounts of benefits to Nepalese, Chinese, Filipino and Bangladeshi employees, and failed to conduct any investigation regarding the claimants’ allegations. Within two or three months after the charge was filed with the EEOC, the defendants unlawfully retaliated against the workers by failing to renew their contracts.
In the largest case, Civil Case No. 07-0029, the EEOC charged that L&T discriminated against a class of non-Chinese workers, many of them Filipino, due to their national origin. The EEOC alleged that employees were forced to work and eat in segregated facilities, denied adequate housing and, after they complained, were all replaced by Chinese workers in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The charging parties in this case were all are non-resident workers hired by the defendants as sewers, but they actually did the work of “packers,” who packed the clothing made by the Concorde manufacturing facility. Nearly all of the workers were hired in February and March 2004 under one-year contracts. However, after only a few months, in mid-May 2004, all the charging parties were called into a meeting with human resources officials and were told that they were being laid off because of low sales. Nearly all the terminated workers were Filipino.
The EEOC further alleged that these same charging parties were also segregated from Chinese employees during the work day and at lunch. The defendant acknowledged this segregation, saying that it “promoted a harmonious working environment,” even though it was a clear violation of federal law. The Filipino workers were forbidden to use the company cafeteria to eat their lunches, and instead had to bring their lunches to work and eat them outside. Moreover, the EEOC alleged that the defendants further discriminated against non-Chinese workers by refusing to provide them food, lodging and medical care.
Another case, Civil Case No. 08-0038, alleged that the employer discriminated against pregnant women by terminating and replacing them with non-pregnant workers. The EEOC was prepared to present evidence, had the case proceeded to trial, showing that L&T International Corporation engaged in a pattern of terminating and/or refusing to renew employment contracts of its female employees once they became pregnant. The EEOC was also prepared to present the employer’s own document, which revealed that an employee’s status for her renewal contract was “non-renewal” because she was “8 months pregnant.” Moreover, the EEOC was also prepared to show that L&T discriminated against its Filipino employees in assignment of overtime by continuing to give substantial overtime to its Chinese employees while allowing its Filipino employees little to no overtime. Defendants’ payroll records revealed that Chinese employees were receiving significantly more overtime hours per week than Filipino employees.
One of the charging parties, Adelyn Lubrico, who had been employed as a quality control checker since 2000, said, “I would like to thank the EEOC for all the effort, time, and help. I used to feel so hopeless because of my termination due to my pregnancy. Now, I feel blessed because the EEOC is fair and provided justice to me. I want people to know that you don't have to be popular to have a voice if you are a victim of discrimination.”
The fourth and final lawsuit, Civil Case No. 08-0037, alleged discrimination against a long-term employee due to age and national origin (Filipino) in violation of the Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The EEOC alleged that an L&T supervisor constantly subjected an employee to age-related verbal harassment, calling the claimant “old.” In addition to age-based comments, the employee also had to endure from her supervisor discriminatory comments related to her Filipino national origin. The EEOC further asserts the employee was ultimately fired based on age and national origin.
EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Y. Park of the agency’s Los Angeles District Office, which has jurisdiction over the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, said, “Workers should not have to fear losing their job because of their national origin, age or pregnancy, and no one should fear retaliation for coming to the EEOC for help. In addition to the monetary relief secured for the victims in these cases, the employer has made a commitment to ensure equal opportunity for its workers going forward, which is buttressed by the remedial provisions of the consent decree.”
Besides the $1.7 million obtained by the EEOC, the three-year consent decree also requires the companies to institute broad injunctive relief and remedies such as:
Other recent EEOC settlements involving Title VII violations in and around the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands include:
* A $205,000 settlement with Rome Research Corporation resolving an EEOC lawsuit that alleged that a female employee at a government facility on Tinian operated by Rome Research was subjected to sexual assaults by her supervisor and was retaliated against after she became pregnant from the repeated sexual assaults.
* A $120,000 settlement with Rifu Apparel requiring the company to pay seven female garment workers because the company refused to renew their employment contracts due to their pregnancy. Besides the monetary relief, the four-year decree required policy revisions, training of supervisors, and monitoring by the EEOC.
* An $80,000 settlement with 99 Cents/Townhouse Stores and Yuns Corporation requiring the company to pay six former female workers for charges of sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. The companies agreed to a three-year consent decree and the hiring of an equal opportunity consultant to review and revise its EEO policy, review complaints, and provide management and employee training.
* A $243,000, settlement with Leo Palace Resorts in Guam to settle a case alleging that the employer ignored the sexual harassment complaints of four female employees and retaliated against them by terminating them. The terms of the settlement require a three-year consent decree, monitoring by the EEOC, hiring of an EEO Consultant to provide training, policy review and/or revisions and review of employee complaints.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Los Angeles District's jurisdiction includes Southern and Central California, Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Wake Island, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.