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BlueSky and Pulei’ite sued by former employee, fiancée

reporters@samoanews.com

The High Court is yet to schedule a date to hear evidence in a lawsuit filed against BlueSky Communications and Pulelei’ite Tufele Li’amatua Jr. by a former BlueSky employee, Alex Alan Lara-Ramirez and his fiancée, Norma Veronica Albizures Perez for breach of contract and wrongful termination.

According to the lawsuit, Perez did not work for BlueSky, but she was a beneficiary of Ramirez’s work contract, because the contract provided for her return air fare to her native country.

It further notes that while BlueSky did not sponsor Perez, Pulelei’ite, acting as a private individual did — however he did so, knowing that she was Ramirez’s fiancée and that she was included in his work contract. Pulelei’ite is BlueSky’s Chief Financial Officer.

Ramirez is a native of Mexico and Perez is a native of Guatemala.

Ramirez and his fiancée are seeking to be awarded for punitive damages, compensatory damages, and incidental and consequential damages, in an amount to be determined at trial.

The are alleging that as a result of actions by BlueSky and Pulelei’ite, both “are now in American Samoa, without an income source, without stable housing, and without funds to finance their returns airfares to their native countries.”

LAWSUIT

In the suit filed with the High Court, it says that Ramirez signed a contract on June 7, 2010 with Blue Sky as the Director of Mobile Switching Center (MSC) operations. The contract was from June 2010 until December 31, 2012. However, Ramirez worked from June 2010 until last month when he was terminated.

The contract offered a $40,000 annual salary, with housing, fringe benefits and round trip travel for the plaintiffs to and from American Samoa. According to the lawsuit filed by the plaintiff, there was NO “at will employment” clause and NO “early termination” clause.

(It should be noted that in the lawsuit, Pulelei’ite is referred to as “Li’a”, ‘Liamatua’, and ‘Pulelei’ite Tufele Li’amatua Jr’. Samoa News has chosen to use his matai (chief) title, Pulelei’ite to identify him in the story.)

In addition to Pulelei’ite and Blue Sky’s CEO Aldolfo Montenegro supervising Ramirez, says the lawsuit, when Blue Sky hired Douglas Creevey, Creevey also supervised Ramirez. Ramirez alleges he started having problems with Creevey in March 2011 when he refused to adapt a document originally belonging to Digicel (a competitor company) for Blue Sky’s use.

Ramirez claims Creevey gave him the Digicel document and also asked him to keep confidential the fact that the document is actually a Digicel document. The lawsuit also states that Ramirez refused to adapt the Digicel document for Blue Sky’s use and sent Pulelei’ite an email stating that he would not engage in such acts as he believed Creevey’s instructions amounted to a request to engage in illegal activity.

In December 2011, Ramirez alleges he received, without warning, notification from BlueSky that he was to be terminated from employment. Ramirez says he then later, in the same month, received from Pulelei’ite, again without warning, an evaluation that Pulelei’ite said was performed by Creevey, along with a termination letter, with a final work date of Jan. 13, 2012. Creevey’s evaluation gave Ramirez “all of the lowest evaluation marks.”

On Jan. 3, 2012, a second evaluation was received by Ramirez, this time it was performed by Pulelei’ite. In the lawsuit, Ramirez alleges that this evaluation noted his performance as “average to above average”, and at the time he received it, he was told by Pulelei’ite to ignore Creevey’s evaluation.

Despite the largely positive evaluation BlueSky still terminated Ramirez’s contract. According to the lawsuit, BlueSky’s alleged reasons for terminating Ramirez from employment are untrue and/or pre-textual and/or unclear.

The amended complaint also alleges that when BlueSky learned that Ramirez retained an attorney, the telecommunication company changed its termination date for the plaintiff from January 13, 2012 to January 5, 2012, indicating that Ramirez was being terminated for not going to work.

Between January 5, 2012 and January 8, 2012 Ramirez’s company car was removed, their internet was cut-off, the sim cards for their cell phones were also cut-off. Ramirez was blocked from accessing his Blue Sky email account and he was informed to vacate his apartment.

Blue Sky also refused to unconditionally provide re-patriation expenses and refused to provide the contracted re-patriation expenses according to the language of Ramirez’s employment contract. The lawsuit says that BlueSky is Ramirez’s sponsor and is legally obligated to pay his return trip to his native country.

According to the lawsuit, Blue Sky’s sudden termination of Ramirez’s employment contract and subsequent actions regarding Ramirez and Perez — both foreign nationals— has them stranded in American Samoa without income sources, without family, without telephone and internet access, without a vehicle, without stable housing, and with the fear they would not fund their return airfare to Ramirez’s country of native origin.

The lawsuit says, “As a result of Blue Sky’s actions, Lara (Ramirez) has suffered damages because he lacks funds to return to his native country and is faced with the possibility of becoming an overstayer.”

In regards to the second plaintiff, Perez, the lawsuit alleges that she was a beneficiary of Ramirez’s employment contract with BlueSky, “because the contract provided for return air fare” for his “fiancée”, to her native country.

The lawsuit says, Pulelei’ite sponsored Perez “because BlueSky included Ramirez’s fiancée in his employment contract — even though he acted in his capacity “as a private individual” for immigration purposes.

The lawsuit further alleges that Pulelei’ite did not pay any immigration bond, but rather Ramirez paid BlueSky, who then tendered the money to Pulelei’ite, who subsequently then paid the immigration bond.

Pulelei’ite incurred legal responsibilities as her sponsor, the lawsuit alleges, but he never intended to honor any of these legal duties, as such he sponsored her under false pretenses.

Samoa News asked BlueSky for a comment on the lawsuit, and their reply through their attorneys Rose Joneson Vargas is as follows:

“The complaint filed by Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Perez mischaracterizes the course of events that took place surrounding Mr. Ramirez's employment. Bluesky had good cause for terminating Mr. Ramirez’s employment and has no duty to financially support his companion, Ms. Perez. Bluesky disputes their allegations and will vigorously defend against their unfounded claims.”

Pulelei'ite, who is also a House representative, was also asked for comments on the allegations against him in the lawsuit. He said:

“Alex Alan Lara Ramirez and Norma Veronica Albizures Perez's complaint distorts the truth. I will prove that there is no merit to their claims against me within the context of the pending legal action. I am confident that the evidence will show that there is no basis for their claims and I look forward to having my day in court.”

Sharon Rancourt, who is the legal representative for the plaintiffs, and filed the case against BlueSky, told Samoa News, at this time, she has “no comment” concerning the case.

Samoa News understands Ramirez and Perez are still on-island awaiting status on their lawsuit, as well as due to their financial constraints.



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