Home Local News CHILEAN STUDENT LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD VS W.I.T. & BUSINESSES

CHILEAN STUDENT LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD VS W.I.T. & BUSINESSES

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A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS RULED THAT A LAWSUIT ALLEGING HUMAN TRAFFICKING VIOLATIONS AND OTHER ACCUSATIONS FILED BY 14 STUDENTS FROM CHILE AGAINST WESTERN IOWA TECH AND SOME LOCAL BUSINESSES MAY CONTINUE.

JUDGE LEONARD STRAND RULED THAT SEVEN OF THE ELEVEN COUNTS FILED AGAINST THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE, PLUS CO-DEFENDANTS TUR-PAK FOODS, J AND L ENTERPRISES AND ROYAL CANIN USA ARE VALID.

THE LAWSUIT ALLEGES THE CHILEAN STUDENTS WERE RECRUITED IN 2019 IN A TEMPORARY VISA PROGRAM TO LEARN ROBOTICS AND CULINARY SKILLS WHILE WORKING AS PAID INTERNS FOR $15 DOLLARS AN HOUR.

THE STUDENTS WOULD WORK UP TO 35 HOURS A WEEK AND ATTEND CLASS 12 HOURS A WEEK.

THEY ENDED UP WITH UNSKILLED LABOR JOBS AT TUR-PAK, A MEAT PROCESSING COMPANY, AND ROYAL CANIN USA, A PET FOOD MANUFACTURER, WHERE $7.75 OF THEIR WAGES WERE PAID TO THE COLLEGE FOR HOUSING, TUITION AND FEES, LEAVING THEM WITH MINIMUM WAGE JOBS OF $7.25 AN HOUR.

J AND L WAS ALSO PAID A FEE.

THE LAWSUIT STATES THE STUDENTS WERE NOT MADE AWARE OF THE WAGE CONDITIONS, AND WERE TOLD TO USE THEIR REMAINING WAGES TO BUY FOOD AND THAT THE COLLEGE TOLD THEM TO SEEK A SECOND JOB TO PAY THEIR ROOM AND BOARD.

JUDGE STRAND DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE FOUR COUNTS INCLUDING RACKETEERING AGAINST ALL THE DEFENDANTS PLUS INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS AGAINST TUR-PAK AND ROYAL CANIN.

THE JUDGE LET STAND THE OTHER ALLEGATIONS INCLUDING HUMAN TRAFFICKING VIOLATIONS, FORCED LABOR, PEONAGE AND DEBT BONDAGE AGAINST ALL THE DEFENDANTS, PLUS FRAUDULENT MISREPRESENTATION AND BREACH OF CONTRACT AGAINST THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE AND IOWA WAGE PAYMENT VIOLATIONS AGAINST TUR-PAK AND ROYAL CANIN USA.

A TRIAL DATE IN THE CASE HAS NOT BEEN SET.

A STATEMENT FROM WESTERN IOWA TECH WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON SAYS QUOTE:

“WESTERN IOWA TECH COMMUNITY COLLEGE DENIES THESE CLAIMS. THESE ACCUSATIONS ARE COMPLETELY UNTRUE, SENSATIONALIZED AND OFFENSIVE. WE LOOK FORWARD TO DEFENDING THE COLLEGE AND ITS EMPLOYEES IN COURT AND WELCOME THE OPPORTUNITY TO REFUTE THESE MALICIOUS ALLEGATIONS.”