Three plaintiffs allege they and other Turkish H2-B workers recruited to help build Saipan’s Imperial Palace hotel and casino have been deprived of proper regular and overtime wages by Chinese investment holding company Imperial Pacific International (IPI).
The plaintiffs allege in the 14-page lawsuit that workers recruited from Turkey in 2019, including master plumbers, carpenters, electricians and other construction workers and foremen, were fraudulently induced by the defendants to work in Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for compensation “not much above the minimum wage.”
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit, the defendants—Imperial Pacific International (CNMI), Imperial Pacific International Holdings Ltd. and IDS Development Management & Consultancy—made the workers a number of promises, including claims about overtime hours, roundtrip airfare to Turkey in exchange for contract renewals, meals prepared by a Turkish cook and other assurances, that turned out to be untrue.
“Overtime hours disappeared after a few months, the airfare and the Turkish cook never materialized,” the lawsuit, filed in the Northern Mariana Islands District Court, alleges. “Then, in June, IPI started missing the biweekly paydays. Twice, Plaintiffs have gone more than a month without any cash in their pockets.”
The case further claims drinking water and internet access “have been cut off” in the workers’ barracks, and conditions have deteriorated to the point that the plaintiffs, employees of IPI admitted to the U.S. through the H-2B temporary non-agricultural worker program administered in part by the U.S. Department of Labor, have been forced to seek relief under American law.
Twenty-eight Turkish workers have thus far consented to join the collective action, the complaint states.
One requirement of the DOL’s H-2B program is that workers must be offered a wage that “equals or exceeds the highest of the prevailing wage, applicable federal minimum wage, state minimum wage or local minimum wage” for the entire period of approved H2-B labor certification, the lawsuit says. Another requirement is that wages must timely be paid to the worker in cash or negotiable instrument at par, made finally and unconditionally and “free and clear,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit says that many of the Turkish workers were “destitute” upon their arrival in Saipan in January 2020, having to borrow money in order to cover travel expenses. The plaintiffs allege the defendants broke a number of promises made in the Letter of Commitment outlining the conditions of their employment.
“The meals that IPI offered were prepared to the taste of Chinese workers and was, for the Turkish workers, practically inedible,” the lawsuit claims. “Plaintiffs had to pool resources to buy food and cook for themselves.”
Further, the defendants “drastically cut” the promised number of hours the plaintiffs were to work, eliminating all overtime and leaving the individuals with no more than 40 hours of work at their regular rates of pay each week, according to the case. The suit goes on to claim the defendants similarly fell short of their assurance to cover Western Union transfer fees for sending money home to Turkey and duped the workers on their so-called health insurance.
“Healthcare insurance premiums were deducted pre-tax from Plaintiffs’ biweekly paychecks,” the complaint reads. “However, when sick workers went to the hospital (CHCC) for treatment, they were told that their insurance with TakeCare had been suspended for nonpayment of premiums.”
Lastly, the lawsuit alleges workers were paid no wages for the pay period between May 31 and June 7, and in the following weeks were paid late by as much as a month.
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