Judge's ruling nets millions for exploited Filipino RNs.


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After a protracted legal battle that began in 2006 with criminal charges of patient abandonment and continued with civil suits and countersuits of breach of contract, U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon ruled in favor of Filipino nurses recruited by Prompt Nursing Employment Agency and Sentosa Care nursing homes.


Judge Gershon, ruling in June 2021, awarded the 133 nurses in the class action suit $3.2 million in compensatory damages plus 9% interest for each year the nurses were inadequately paid. The defendants were found to have breached their contract with the nurses by failing to pay promised salaries and to have violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The case was remanded to a federal magistrate for final settlement discussions which concluded in April.


The initial group of 26 Filipino nurses resigned from their positions in 2006, claiming unsafe working conditions, assignments to facilities not part of their recruitment agreement, and wages below what they were told they would receive. The defendants brought criminal charges of patient abandonment (these charges were found to be without merit) and then embroiled the nurses in a civil suit for breach of contract, including a $25,000 penalty for terminating employment before the end of their three-year contract.


The nurses' countersuit resulted in a class action lawsuit on behalf of other Filipino RNs recruited by the same agency; the court ruled against the agency, the nursing homes, and their owners in 2019, but monetary damages were not determined at that time.


The nursing shortage, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, has spurred many hospitals to turn to foreign-educated nurses to fill vacancies. The Alliance for Ethical International Recruitment Practices maintains a list of certified ethical recruiters as a resource for employers.-Maureen Shawn Kennedy, MA, RN, FAAN