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By Haidee V. Eugenio

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 18) – A woman from China paid US$4,400 so she could work on Saipan as a commercial cleaner, only to find out upon her arrival here on November 10, 2004 that there was no job waiting for her.

Shen Hongyan filed a complaint with the Department of Labor last year, but even before the investigation could start, the employer already left the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and abandoned 50 other nonresident workers.

On May 1, her labor case was finally resolved.

The employer was Kim Jai Hyun, the owner of Elephant Corp., which left on November 27, 2005 without paying workers US$83,212 in back wages and was the subject of a separate labor investigation.

Shen Hongyan’s husband, who was already working on Saipan in 2004, approached a fellow garment factory employee named Wang Chenggong to find a job for his wife.

Wang said he knew of a commercial cleaner’s job and could arrange for Shen Hongyan to be hired.

For arranging the job and for processing the necessary papers, Wang asked for and received US$4,400 from Shen Hongyan’s husband.

Elephant Corp. and its owner/president Kim Jai Hyun processed a contract to employ Shen Hongyan, who arrived on Saipan on November 10, 2004.

Labor Hearing Officer Herbert D. Soll, in a May 1 administrative order, said Shen Hongyan reported to Elephant Corp. to begin work, but the corporation and/or its president Kim Jai Hyun did not give her work.

The hearing officer said Shen Hongyan remained available and willing to work, but none was provided for the duration of the contract.

When a complaint was finally filed with Labor, the employer was served with a notice to appear for an investigation, but he departed from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands before the investigative session.

"Evidence supports the contention that he and the corporation are one and the same. He shares financial responsibility for any obligations acquired in the corporate name," said Soll.

Wang Chenggong had also left the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands when the labor complaint was filed.

"There is evidence to support the claim that Elephant Corp. and Kim Jai Hyun employed Wang Chenggong to secure payment from the complainant for the contract that Elephant Corp. extended to the complainant. Wang was not an employee of Elephant and such service was a violation of 3 CMC 4437(d) and (e) (or the Nonresident Workers Act)," said Soll.

The hearing officer, in his three-page order, said respondents Elephant Corp. and Kim Jai Hyun should pay Shen Hongyan contract wages totaling US$5,368 for the time the complainant—as their employee—was available to work and no work was provided.

Soll also ordered the respondents to pay another US$5,368 in liquidated damages for their willful abuse of their legal obligations under the law and the contract.

The respondents were also ordered to return the US$4,400 which Shen Hongyan paid to them.

"Said payment was an illegal charge for employment and an illegal charge for processing the employment contract," said Soll.

Soll added that Shen Hongyan is eligible for transfer relief if she has filed on her behalf an application for a non-resident worker’s permit within 45 days of the date of the May 1 order.

The hearing officer also sanctioned the respondents US$2,000 each for the violations cited. They are also disqualified from employing nonresident workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands until all the wages, reimbursements and sanctions are paid.

The hearing officer said surety bond 14857 of Traders Insurance Underwriters shall be used to satisfy the wage obligations if the respondents do not satisfy the terms of the administrative order within 30 days.

Elephant Corp. is no longer operating and its president is no longer in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

May 18, 2006

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