By Chris Musillo

As reported in the New York Law Journal, A Federal Judge will allow a group of Filipino H-1B nurses to continue their lawsuit against Sentosa Care as a “certified class.” At issue was whether the nurses had to pursue their claims individually or whether they could proceed in one class action lawsuit. By allowing the case to continue as a class, the lawsuit could lead to greater damage awards against Sentosa Care since it is generally easier for plaintiffs to pursue litigation together. The plaintiff’s lawyer says that 200 H-1B nurses could now bring their claims.

The judge laid out the case in her decision. The substantive issue is whether Sentosa’s pursuit of a damage clause in the employment contractual clause rises to the standard of violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The employment agreement entitled Sentosa to $25,000 in liquidated damages if the nurses left Sentosa’s employment prior to fulfilling the three-year contract.

The nurses allege two claims:
  1. Because the nurses were not paid the contractual wage from the time that they began working, the employment agreements were breached. Therefore, Sentosa’s pursuit of the $25,000 violates several provisions of the TVPA.
  2. Even if the agreements were not breached, the $25,000 itself is so far above Sentosa’s actual damages that pursuit of the $25,000 violates several provisions of the TVPA. The judge notes that there is some evidence that Sentosa only spent a few thousand dollars per nurse.
Sentosa’s employment and recruiting practices have been the subject of lengthy litigation. We will follow the case and report back as we hear anything.