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WiredJa Online News

Lawsuit filed in the US on behalf of Jamaicans in hotel work programme

A federal lawsuit has been filed in the US on behalf  of  a group of  Jamaicans employed under a hotel work programme and who were reportedly underpaid over the past three years.

A legal advocacy group is alleging that Kiawah Island Golf  Resort in South Carolina underpaid the Jamaicans who worked as housekeepers and other service employees.  

The Southern Poverty Law Center yesterday said the upscale seaside getaway did not reimburse the workers for hundreds of  dollars in recruitment fees they each paid as required under the federal guest worker programme.

The lawsuit alleges that expenses pushed the wages of  the workers, estimated at more than 500, below the minimum level required by the programme.  

The complaint says the resort also charged the affected workers excessive fees for housing and transportation and ignored a wage increase mandated by the U.S. Department of  Labour. The Jamaicans, who worked as housekeepers, servers and bell persons from 2012 through 2014, were housed in an apartment complex an hour from the resort and bused to the property.

The issues were raised in the labor lawsuit filed March 6 in U.S District Court in Charleston on behalf  of  four Jamaican workers and others in a similar situation. The law center alleges that even before the workers arrived at Kiawah, they incurred expenses that were never reimbursed by the hotel, as required, such as the costs for guest worker visas and transportation from Jamaica. These two expenses totaled more than $600 per guest worker each year.  

 And the Kiawah resort said up to yesterday it had not been served with the lawsuit and could not respond to the allegations. Its President, Roger Warren, said a written statement released by the law center about the case was fraught with misrepresentations and untruths.  Mr. Warren said the resort has been an active participant in the guest worker program for 15 years.  He said at no time has the federal agency for the programme stated that it was in violation.

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