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Friday, April 25, 2014

Labor warns tour agency for failing to meet 30 pct. local workers rule

The Department of Labor has warned that it will sanction a tour agency if it fails to remedy its failure to hire U.S. citizens and permanent residents enough to meet the 30 percent workforce requirement.

Labor administrative hearing officer Jerry Cody ordered Hana Tour Service Inc. to arrange for its president, In Taek Hwang, to meet with James Ulloa of Labor’s Citizen Job Availability and Job Placement Section at a date to be arranged.

In an administrative order on Tuesday, Cody also ordered Hana Tour’s manager Jong Bong Won and its accountant, Gina S. Sanchez, to attend the meeting in order to devise a workforce plan to move toward achieving the 30-percent requirement under CNMI law.

Cody directed the tour agency to post all job vacancies and job renewals in the future on Labor’s website.

Cody said his office will retain jurisdiction of this case until it receives written notice from Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section that Hana Tour has complied with the terms of the order.

“If respondent fails to comply with the terms of this order, respondent shall be subject to monetary and other sanctions in an amount to be determined at a later hearing,” he warned.

According to Labor records, its Enforcement Section conducted an on-site compliance inspection of Hana Tours’ business on Jan. 15, 2013, and served the company with a document request, called the “Business Establishment Compliances and Monitoring Report.”

On Jan. 31, 2013, the company produced the requested documents—a total listing of workforce statement of compliance, a copy of two latest quarterly employer’s withholding tax, payroll summary, map of business location, business license, and annual corporate report.

On Feb. 4, 2013, Labor’s Enforcement served Hana Tours with a notice of warning, informing the company that it was not in compliance with the 30 percent requirement. At the time, the company had 32 employees, consisting of zero U.S. citizens, two permanent residents, and 30 foreign workers.

The notice instructed the company to contact Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section for assistance in obtaining referrals of U.S. citizen applicants or making other arrangements to meet the 30 percent U.S. workforce requirement.

In the nine months following February 2013, Hana Tours hired several U.S. citizens and permanent residents, including two persons referred by Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section.

Even with these hirings, though, the workforce percentage never approached the 30 percent level mandated by CNMI law, Cody said.

He said that in November 2013, Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section made several calls to the company to determine whether it had devised a workforce plan, but the employer failed to respond.

Accountant Suarez testified that their president makes all hiring and firing decisions and that the president had been off-island at the time Labor made inquiries.

Labor’s Citizen Job Placement then referred the matter for investigation to Labor’s Enforcement Section.

Labor’s Enforcement Section concluded that Hana Tours had been uncooperative and non-compliant with labor laws, rules and regulations with respect to recruiting eligible U.S. workers and permanent residents.

Cody conducted a compliance agency case on Jan. 15.

Cody said that under Commonwealth law, every employer is required to make good faith effort to recruit eligible U.S. workers and permanent residents in sufficient force to meet the targeted 30 percent of its total workforce.

He said Labor recognizes that it may take some employers time and effort to achieve that goal. Therefore, he said, Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section is willing to work with employers to devise a long-range plan to bring them into compliance over a period of time.

In this case, Cody said, Hana Tours failed to post all job listings on Labor’s website and neglected to submit a workforce plan or to meet with the Citizen Job Placement Section for help in creating a workforce plan.

On a positive note, Cody said, the company did hire several citizens and one additional permanent resident in 2013, improving its percentages slightly.

One difficulty here, Cody said, is that 22 of the 32 jobs in Hana Tours’ workforce are tour guide positions that require fluency in the Korean language, as these guides deal directly with Korean tourists.

Cody said these 22 positions will be difficult to fill with U.S. citizens or permanent residents given the foreign language requirement.

However, he said, several other positions, such as accounting jobs, may be filled with local hires.

In any event, Cody said, Hana Tours must cooperate with Labor by demonstrating that its upper management, not just its accountant, is willing to meet with personnel from Labor’s Citizen Job Placement Section to devise a workforce plan to bring the employer into compliance with the law.

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