U.S. Department of Labor Investigation Finds $13.9 Million Due to Thousands of Chinese Employees Working on Saipan Casino and Hotel
by Foster LLP, on News
HONOLULU, HI – The U.S. Department of Labor has finalized a series of settlements with contractors on Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands that will pay a collective $13.9 million in back wages and damages to thousands of employees who came from China to build the Saipan Casino and Hotel on the island.
Investigators with the Department’s Wage and Hour Division determined that the foreign-based construction contractors paid their workforce less than the minimum wage and overtime pay required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Four China-based construction contractors – MCC International Saipan Ltd. Co., Beilida New Materials System Engineering Co. Ltd., Gold Mantis Construction Decoration, and Sino Great Wall International Engineering Co. LLC – have entered into formal agreements to pay $13,972,425 in back wages and liquidated damages to more than 2,400 employees.
MCC, Beilida and Gold Mantis also employed workers brought to Saipan as “tourists” from China under a tourist visa waiver program offered by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. These Chinese “tourists” worked at the casino job site without proper work visas. In addition to being paid in violation of the minimum wage and overtime requirements, these workers also incurred debt of $6,000 or more when they were required to pay their own airfare and recruitment fees prior to their employment on Saipan.
“These settlements ensure that thousands of workers will receive the wages they legally earned, while simultaneously sending a strong, clear message to other employers,” said Wage and Hour Acting Administrator Bryan Jarrett. “Employers who evade the law in an attempt to reduce expenses must not gain a competitive advantage over those who play by the rules. Regardless of where work is performed in the U.S. or its territories, we will continue to enforce the law and level the playing field.”
“As the Department of Labor works to prevent visa fraud and abuse, this case represents an example of the Department’s strong commitment to protecting the American workforce by enforcing the law,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.
Imperial Pacific International contracted with various China-based companies for the construction of its Saipan Casino and Hotel project. These settlements resolve a portion of the Wage and Hour Division’s wide-ranging investigation into the ongoing casino and hotel project.
The Department’s Office of the Solicitor negotiated the settlements.
Employees and employers with questions about the FLSA or any of the federal wage laws administered by the Division should call the agency’s toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). All calls are confidential. More information is available online at http://www.dol.gov/whd/.