Oklahoma businesses accused of trafficking Filipino nationals to US for cheap labor
CLINTON, Okla. (KOKH) - A recently filed federal lawsuit accuses several Clinton, Oklahoma businesses of trafficking Filipino nationals to the United States for cheap labor.
The suit, which has been filed by the ACLU of Oklahoma, Legal Aid at Work and the Equal Justice Center, alleges that Walter and Carolyn Schumacher, of HotelMacher LLC, SteakMacher LLC and Schumaker Investments, recruited Filipinos to work at a hotel and restaurant under the promise of fair wages and free room and board. The lawsuit claims that the employees were instead paid less than promised, threatened and denied food and lodging.
The suit lists three plaintiffs, employees of Clinton-based Schumacher businesses Montana Mike's Steakhouse, Water Zoo and Holiday Inn Express. The employees were "induced" into paying large fees for the recruitment and for H-2B visas sponsored by the company. The plaintiffs also claim they were forced to pay their way to the U.S. after recruitment. The complaint states that the Schumachers gained Department of Labor certifications for H-2B visas for over 110 workers in 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2014.
The lawsuit alleges that the employees at the hotel were paid approximately $4.25 per room cleaned, under the contractual rate and federal wage and hour laws. Those working at the restaurant were paid $2 per hour plus tips while those working as breakfast cooks or water park employees were paid $1-$2 less than promised.
The plaintiffs state that they were only allowed to work a few hours per day, three to four days per week. This didn't allow them to send money home to pay for debts incurred when they obtained their visas.
The plaintiffs were not given free housing or housing allowances and were forced to "overcrowded and costly motel room accommodations at their own expense," according to the suit.
The suit claims that employees were threatened by defendant Walter Schumacher. Schumacher allegedly told employees that he was carrying a firearm in his vehicle as he was driving them from the airport after their arrival. In another instance, Schumacher allegedly stated he would only pay for the employees' return airfare to the Philippines if they were returning "in a box." Schumacher also reportedly used his close ties with law enforcement to intimidate the employees, the lawsuit states.
The suit asks a court to award the plaintiffs compensatory damages, punitive damages and court costs.
FOX 25 called the number associated with each company listed in the complaint. An employee at one of the businesses stated the company no longer recruits immigrant workers and hasn't for years but when they did they were paid a fair wage. Each plaintiff states they were recruited to work for the company in 2012.
Read the full suit below: