A 52-year-old woman has been awarded more than $132,000 in unpaid wages and liquidated damages, after the federal court found out that she was made to work an average of 13 hours each day without overtime payment.
Yu Xuang was awarded $75,979.44 in unpaid wages and $56,698.40 in liquidated damages.
U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona found Joo Yeon Corp. (JYC), Se Young Corp. (SYC), and Yang-Tack Hwang liable to pay former employee Yu Xuang $75,979.44 in unpaid wages and $56,698.40 in liquidated damages, for a total of $132,677.84.
Manglona determined that Xuan was neither paid the prevailing minimum wage nor overtime hours, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Commonwealth’s Minimum Wage and Hour Act, and her employment contract.
Manglona directed the clerk to enter the judgment in favor of Xuan and against her former employers—JYC, SYC, and Hwang. Clerk of Court Heather L. Kennedy issued the entry of judgment last Friday.
Xuan filed her civil action in 2012.
Xuan claimed she worked in excess of 18 hours each day despite being paid a flat fee of $800 per month. Defendants failed to keep timesheets or any other documentation of Xuan’s work hours and argued that Xuan worked far fewer hours than claimed.
Manglona conducted a 19-day bench trial in the case.
Manglona earlier determined that JYC, SYC and Hwang were Xuan’s employers for purposes of the FLSA because Xuan worked for JYC as a tour driver, for SYC at its Seaman’s Restaurant, and reported directly to Hwang as her supervisor.
According to the court’s determination, Xuan came to work on Saipan in 2007 and that she last worked on Saipan in 2012 for JYC and its owner, Hwang, doing business as Santa Rosa tour boat.
Xuan previously worked at a market and a poker arcade before applying for a job with JYC in 2008. Xuan provided services to JYC from June 2008 to October 2012.
Xuan testified that she worked as a tour guide for defendants from June 2008 to October 2012.
Xuan checked guests into their hotels, collected payments for optional tours upon check-in, and escorted them to dinner shows, magic shows, water parks, and other optional tours.
Xuan also testified that she helped prepare “snorkeling packs” for customers each morning, and then purchased squid for fishing, purchased tuna and occasionally lobster for dinner at the Seaman Restaurant—a restaurant originally owned and operated by JYC but then transferred to SYC—and washed the snorkel gear returned by customers after their Managaha or “hopping” tour trip.
Sometimes Xuan would also assist with the operations of Seaman’s Restaurant.
Defendants paid Xuan a flat fee on a monthly basis without regard to the actual number of hours performed. She was paid $800 per month until July 2012, with the exception of one month of unpaid vacation from June 10, 2012, to July 11, 2012.
She was then paid $1,000 per month from August 2012 until her termination in October 2012.
Xuan alleges that she worked, on average, at least 12.5 hours each day. On her busiest day, she worked approximately 18 hours a day; and on the slowest days, she worked no less than eight hours.
Manglona determined that Xuan has presented enough evidence to support a reasonable inference of hours worked when her employer failed to keep records of her hours worked.
Manglona said the defendants showed no evidence of precisely how many hours Xuan actually worked.
Manglona said that based on the evidence at trial, she finds that Xuan worked an average of 13 hours per day from Nov. 23, 2008, to Oct. 15, 2012.
Manglona also found the series of employment contracts between Xuan and the defendants from Nov. 20, 2008, through at least Dec. 20, 2010, to be valid and enforceable.
Manglona said the statute of limitation for breach of contract is six years and will be calculated from the beginning of Xuan’s employment.
The judge additionally noted that Hwang’s conduct in other matters also impugns his reliability.
Manglona noted that Hwang lived in a government-sponsored affordable housing and reported low levels of income, despite all the tour company vehicles listed in his name.
“Again, without reaching the conclusion that Hwang defrauded the CNMI government, the court notes Hwang’s seeming willingness to pursue his own interests without regard for strict honesty,” Manglona said.
The judge also cited that the evidence at trial show that Hwang has had past FLSA unpaid wage claims filed against his company in federal court, as well as a formal labor complaint before the CNMI Department of Labor during Xuan’s first year of employment with JYC.
In the Labor case, Manglona said, Hwang, as manager of JYC, was required to attend Labor’s orientation for foreign workers because he was found to have displayed a “very substantial lack or [sic] knowledge of or willingness to evade the requirements of Commonwealth law.”
Attorney Mark Hanson is counsel for Xuan. Attorney Samuel Mok is counsel for the defendants.