Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:08:00 07/16/2009
GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK—The discrimination claims filed by 26 Filipino nurses and physical therapists in New York have been rejected by a US federal judge.
In their suit, the health workers said they were forced to quit their jobs at nursing homes in New York City and suburban Long Island, and that agreements made about working conditions before they left the Philippines were not honored by their US employers.
On June 30, an administrative law judge ruled that the resignations were not protected by federal immigration employment law.
The immigration lawyer of the health workers said he was disappointed that the ruling was made without a hearing. He said he was considering an appeal.
The health workers were hired by Sentosa Recruitment Agency (SRA) for its New York-based parent company, Sentosa Care Group, to help ease a staffing shortage in the United States.
Win and lose
Sentosa and the health workers have been exchanging suits in the United States and the Philippines.
Only in January, the New York Supreme Court acquitted 10 of the nurses of misdemeanor charges for endangering sick patients by quitting their jobs in a Long Island nursing home.
The nurses resigned from their jobs at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center on April 7, 2006, in protest over SRA’s purported recruitment violations. They said contract provisions on pay and housing and working conditions were not followed.
In reaction, Sentosa Care brought a $50-million damage suit against the 10 nurses and their lawyer, Felix Vinluan, for purported breach of contract, conspiracy and child endangerment.
The New York court upheld the nurses’ petition to stop the Suffolk county from prosecuting them.
The court said the nurses resigned after their shifts ended, thus rendering “speculative” the accusation that they endangered the lives of their patients, including children, by quitting.
The court also said the nurses had “the constitutional right to be free from involuntary service.”
But in 2007, the US Department of Justice dismissed the charges of recruitment violations filed by the 26 health workers against Sentosa.
In 2008, they lost the cases they had filed in the Philippines against Sentosa for purported illegal recruitment, contract violations, illegal dismissal and nonpayment of salaries.
The case of Elmer Jacinto
A number of the nurses are licensed doctors in the Philippines who took up nursing to be able to work in the United States.
Among them is Elmer Jacinto, who graduated from medical school magna cum laude, completed his premed course of nursing cum laude, and topped the medical board exams in 2004.
In earlier interviews in the Philippines, Jacinto, a consistent scholar and honor student, said he was leaving the country for a nursing contract in the United States that promised higher pay.
“While it pains me to do so, I’m looking forward to going abroad and not to let the opportunity pass. If only the [job] market for medicine graduates were good here,” he had said. Reports from Associated Press and Inquirer Research
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