SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (CN) – A waitress claims in a federal class action that her bosses forced her and other Chinese women into prostitution and threatened to kill her family when she reported it.
Dong Jie Song sued Huang Shun Corp. for sexual harassment and civil rights violations in this U.S. territory, whose governmental status is similar to Puerto Rico’s. Businesses on the chain of 15 Pacific islands north of Guam hire immigrant contract workers from Asia and other Micronesian islands.
Song claims she was hired as a karaoke waitress but was “coerced” into working as a prostitute.
“Although there were other karaoke waitresses, only the Chinese waitresses were coerced to work as prostitutes,” the complaint states.
“Defendant paid Chinese employees less than employees of other national origins.
For example, Filipino employees were paid bi-weekly and minimum wage, as well as overtime; whereas Chinese employees were paid once a month without overtime or minimum wage. Chinese waitresses were only paid commission; whereas Filipina waitresses were paid hourly.”
Song adds that “Chinese employees were expected to work unlimited hours.”
Chinese immigrant workers in the South Pacific are subjected to frequent harassment, physical attacks and employment discrimination, one such worker told Courthouse News in an interview. This woman, who now works legally in the United States, said her family, and other Chinese immigrants in the Philippines, were attacked during economic hard times “because Chinese are such hard workers.”
In her complaint, Song states: “Defendant subjected Chinese employees to beatings and verbal abuse, whereas non-Chinese workers were not.”
She claims the abuse became physical, and that “Song gave a statement and was prepared to testify as a witness in support of a Chinese co-worker who filed a case regarding abuse against defendant.”
The complaint continues: “Song assisted three of her Chinese co-workers who filed a case against defendant complaining of abuse and unpaid wages.
“In retaliation, defendant told her and her Chinese co-workers that they would not be able to survive and get food and he threatened to kill them on or about September 17, 2009.
“In retaliation, defendant also beat up one of the co-workers and threatened to kill Song’s family.
“Song was constructively discharged on September 22, 2009 because she complained and testified to authorities about the abuse.”
Song seeks injunctive relief, back pay, future pay and punitive damages, for herself and other affected class members.
She is represented by Colin Thompson of Saipan.