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AG, Immigration Officers and ASG defendants in 4-year old lawsuit

Scheduled for trial in June this year
reporters@samoanews.com

The Trial division of the High Court has scheduled a trial for June 27, 2012 on a lawsuit filed four years ago, against JKL Inc, JLK Inc., Wilfredo Alamani, Lidavia Alamani, American Samoa Government, Attorney General Fepulea’I Arthur Ripley, Chief Immigration Officer Ufuti Ieremia, Immigration officers, Vaialega Jake Iakopo and Philo Maluia and Correction officers, Fofoa Asi and Siaosi Pona Laea. Two other defendants named in this lawsuit are deceased.

The four-year old lawsuit was filed by Ruby Bartolome, Rhoderiza B. Amil and Melando Baguisi through their lawyer Mark Ude. The amended complaint contains some thirty counts including failure to pay minimum wages, overtime, FICA and the local withholding tax.

Also named in the complaint are counts of false imprisonment, negligence, battery and civil rights violations.

According to the lawsuit filed, the three plaintiffs are all from the Republic of the Philippines and were employed at JKL Inc. and JLK Inc.

This trial will be heard before Associate Justice Lyle L Richmond.

DEFENDANTS

The corporations of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. named in the lawsuit as defendants are all stated by the court documents to be defectively formed corporations, conducting import/export wholesale and retail business in Nu’uuli, and the same people assert to be officers of the corporations:

Wilfredo Alamani — President of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc.

Lidavina Alamani — President and Treasurer of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc.

Samalaulu Saleapaga — Secretary of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc.

The immigration and correction officers are alleged in the lawsuit to have acted on behalf of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc., including the Attorney General and the Chief Immigration Officer, and are all ‘in the employ’ of the American Samoa government, when alleged wrongdoing occurred.

The government of American Samoa is also named as a defendant in the case.

COUNTS ONE-THREE: MINIMUM WAGES DUE

The plaintiffs are asking for $500,000 for the payment of wages at the appropriate rate for the difference in wages paid and the hours worked, from 2002 to 5 May 2008, together with interest on wages owed, punitive damages, and payment and proof of payment of Social Security taxes (FICA) to the IRS, payment and proof of payment of ASG payroll withholding taxes; liquidated damages for willful failure to pay lawful wages; restoration of Plaintiffs’ legal permits to remain in the Territory of American Samoa; and an enjoinder of Defendants from prohibiting Plaintiffs from working.

They are also asking for attorney fees and any other relief as the Court deems just and proper.

The plaintiffs claim that A.S.C.A. § 32.0320 requires every employer to pay minimum wages as set out by this statute or the Federal Minimum Wage Schedule.

However, they claim that defendants JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and their owners/ officers labored plaintiffs Bartolome, Amil and Baguisi to work for eleven hours a day, seven days a week and were paid $400 per month. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were never provided with a proper summary of biweekly wages and deductions when they received their pay.

“Plaintiffs Bartolome, Amil and Baguisi are due the difference between the wages paid and the regular minimum wage entitled under law,” the lawsuit claims.

COUNTS FOUR- SIX: OVERTIME WAGES DUE

The plaintiffs are also claiming overtime as part of their case.

The lawsuit has it that Under A.S.C.A. § 32.0323, an employer who employs an employee in excess of 40 hours per week is required to make compensation for employment in excess of such weekly hours at a rate of one-and-one-half times the regular hourly wage.

The plaintiffs claim working hours were in excess of 40 hours a week since, on or about 2002 until April 2008, in which the defendants JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and their corporate officers failed to provide the plaintiffs with their overtime wages as statutorily required.

COUNTS SEVEN AND EIGHT: FAILURE TO PAY FICA AND ASG WITHHOLDING

The plaintiffs are also claiming the defendants JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and their corporate officers failed to pay FICA, which is required under the law, for the years 2003, 2004 and 2007.

This also includes nonpayment of the employers’ share based upon the full amount of wages already paid or due the Plaintiffs, along with any interest or penalties due to ensure that Plaintiffs’ Social Security entitlements are brought current, the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs claim the defendants were and are required to pay ASG the full amount deducted or required to be deducted from Plaintiffs’ pay for withholding tax, which was also not paid, plus the employers’ FICA share based on the full amount of wages already paid or due to the Plaintiffs.

OTHER COUNTS: NEGLIGENCE, CONSPIRACY, CIVIL RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, FALSE IMPRISONMENT, BATTERY

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that under a scheme between Defendants JKL Inc. and JLK Inc., their officers, and the government, persons were allowed to continue the mistreatment and exploitation of the Plaintiffs.

It’s alleged that upon information and belief government employees have by their negligent acts, acted as agents of JKL Inc. and JLK Inc.

The plaintiffs are alleging that the government has engaged in activity detrimental to Plaintiffs, and did so for further compensation by defendants JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and their corporate officers, and thus are equally responsible for the acts which injured the plaintiffs.

According to the lawsuit, the government should have, upon due diligence, been responsible in their oversight of such actions by JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and is thus negligent for its failure to oversee Plaintiffs, as well as for its negligent participation in such acts.

The plaintiffs claim that all the defendants named in this lawsuit assisted in whole or in part in the mistreatment and exploitation of Plaintiffs.

According to the lawsuit the Attorney General Fepuela’i allowed a co-defendant Lidavina Alamani to leave the jurisdiction, despite a stop order being in place, further assisting her to avoid liability.

Under Count 12: False Imprisonment, the plaintiffs claim that immigration officers Iakopo and Maluia Jr. knowingly and deliberately arranged to detain the plaintiffs, Bartolome, Amil and Buigisi  in custody without proper cause and with “callous disregard for Plantiffs’ notification of their intent to file suit against their employer(s), illegally detained Plaintiffs and denied them freedom to travel within the Territory of American Samoa.”

The plaintiffs claim that Bartolome and Amil had their valid identification cards confiscated by Iakopo and Maluia, at that time.

Under Count 13, which is also stated as False Imprisonment, plaintiffs claim they “were forced to work long and continuous hours for the benefit of their employers,” by having their freedom restricted by JKL Inc. and JLK Inc. and corporate officers “in order to obtain more labor.”

Other claims by Bartolome and Amil state they were coerced and threatened by the government through their employees and they were intimidated to cooperate with the government under fear of deportation.

It is alleged the government breached their duties and their actions were proximate which caused harm to Bartolome and Amil, who were injured as a result.

According to the lawsuit Maluia Jr. handcuffed Bartolome with force, which left welts on her arms from the handcuffs being hung from the roof of the van. 

Bartolome and Amil were forcibly removed out of the Tafuna Correctional Facility against their will by Chief Immigration officer Ufuti and Immigration officers Iakopo and Maluia and correction officers Asi and Leaea, with no written document stating that the plaintiffs Bartolome and Amil were released to the custody of the immigration officers.

The lawsuit states that Bartolome and Amil who were allegedly dragged forcibly out of the TCF, under orders of Chief Immigration Officer, which under the color of law, violated Plaintiffs’ Federal Constitutional Rights by denying due process rights (with respect to liberty interests) and/or fundamental rights protected under the United States Constitution Fourth Amendment and/or Fifth Amendment and/or Eighth Amendment.

According to the amended complaint, Fepeulea’i, Ufuti, Maluia, Iakopo, Leaea and Asi’s alleged actions were in violation of Plaintiffs’ rights under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983, depriving the plaintiffs of their civil rights, causing injuries and damage to Plaintiffs.



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